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Body Positivity

We know from research that the tween and teen years are when girls in particular can become more self-conscious about the changes to their bodies and their interest in sports dips. As part of our ongoing partnership with This Girl Can, which campaigns to encourage all girls and women to feel good about getting active; we spoke to rising track star Ruby Jerges in a second piece about body positivity.

Ruby, I know you feel very strongly about body positivity, can you talk to us about your views on this.

The education system should teach us on a larger scale about how to healthily feel good about how we look, advising us the healthy ways to feel confident within ourselves rather than setting unrealistic standards and being mixed with a lot of false information. It shouldn’t just be about trying to be skinny. It’s important to improve children’s knowledge and understanding of these things.

There are so many different body types. You shouldn’t be embarrassed about how you see

yourself or being sporty. Don’t let others shape how you see yourself. Embrace your difference

According to Dr Georgie Bruinvels, one of the researchers from the 2019 study and a Great Britain cross-country runner, the drop-out figure for girls during puberty was linked to embarrassment and low confidence, feelings of inadequacy, unflattering sports kit, a lack of enjoyment and that sport was “not cool”.

What words of advice do you have for tween girls - and their parents - for increasing body confidence and enjoyment of sport

Sport makes your body strong.

I’m a big eater, I love eating, and that is certainly not a bad thing. I have big thighs from my athletics and previously I compared myself to my friend, who is a dainty dancer, but I’ve grown to become proud of my shape as it shows my strength, it means I can jump further, or run faster.

Don’t let what people portray as the correct image, shape how you feel you should be.

Find something about you to carry you forward that gives you strength and confidence; don’t be defined by what others say. For me I have grown to love having larger thighs because my muscle represents the hard work I have been putting in, and it shows people I can still be beautiful without necessarily meeting the ‘conventional beauty standards.’

Take the ‘bad’ or negative and turn it into a good thing; use it as a motivation.

That’s really inspiring and a great way to reframe negative feelings. The This Girl Can report that we mentioned earlier also talked about unflattering sports kit as a barrier to getting involved; we’d love to know your thoughts on sport kit for girls.

It would be good from a younger age to have more flexibility in what you can wear in PE, so you feel comfortable in whatever that might be - tighter shorts or longer baggier ones; and we shouldn’t be labelling people based on this. It’s not how you look but how you perform that counts.

Wear what you feel comfortable in.

Athletics is a good example; most coverage is on the sprints and hurdles and the different body types are very different to the throwers. A thrower requires a greater muscle mass in order to be able to exert their maximum force in their discipline. However a sprinter needs to be fast and direct their strength elsewhere; these two different types of athletes are clearly not going to do the same training which will therefore shape their bodies differently. And these differences are what makes each athlete so successful and strong, it's something we should embrace and be proud of rather than hide and feel self conscious about.

The traditional kit that runners wear WOULD look different on another type of athlete and that’s fine and that should be the case.

When you compete you need to look smart and feel pride in what you wear. You shouldn’t feel obliged to wear what everyone else is wearing.

There should be more lenience, so that everyone feels comfortable in what they are wearing and there should be less scrutiny about how you look and more focus on how you perform, as an athlete. Appearance shouldn’t be such a focus in how the media portray these really talented athletes.

We couldn’t agree more and it’s great to see the recent positive coverage about Sarah Voss’s decision to wear a full-body suit in the European Gymnastics completion.

Are there any final thoughts or words of advice you’d like to give young girls who are struggling with their changing bodies, and how it makes them feel about taking part in sport?

Be proud of yourself and your body shape. We are all different, we all have different skills. Don't let what you see on the TV, in films or on social media define who you are or what you think you should look like. Love your body, it’s incredible and allows you to do amazing things.

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