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Ask the Expert: Why is soccer a good activity for young girls?

Nuno Curado and daughter Anna, who is enjoying playing football as part of the IFA Shooting Stars Programme

Q. My daughter is four years old and I'd love her to be involved in some activities that are good for her physical and mental development. She is shy, but very active and with lots of energy. What activity would you recommend for her?

A. Lauren Moore works with the Irish Football Association (IFA) as a coach in female football. The IFA has recently partnered with Electric Ireland to launch Shooting Stars, a soccer coaching course for girls aged four to seven.

Lauren spoke to us about why parents should consider football as a top activity for their daughters.

"Football is a fantastic activity for young girls for a number of reasons," she said.

"It offers physical activity, interaction with children of the same age with similar interests, and it helps with development also.

"However, despite its positive impact on developing skills such as teamwork and leadership, as well as building self-confidence, research commissioned by Women in Sport found that physical education is still ‘perceived as an unimportant subject for girls to be good at'.

"In Northern Ireland, thanks to Electric Ireland's award-winning Game Changers Campaign run in partnership with the IFA, we are tackling that perception head-on through programmes like Shooting Stars that will see participants clock up an amazing 2,000 hours of football this season.

"Recently, we brought little girls from the Shooting Stars programme together with a number of 11 to 15 year-olds who are currently going through the IFA Electric Ireland Excellence Programme and the benefits of early adoption of sport clearly shone through.

"The older girls spoke with passion and confidence about their involvement in football and boosted the interest of the younger children. They showed themselves as game-changers and leaders.

"With these two programmes we now have a complete player pathway right through the age groups. But it's not all about getting young girls into the game to potentially play football a high level, it is about having fun and in doing so supporting the early development of the children.

"Parents have a huge role to play. By encouraging and supporting their children to take up a sport at a young age they are providing benefits to their child that will stand them in good stead throughout their lives.

"Studies have found that 90 per cent of a child's brain has developed by age five. If sport is not part of this development it is unlikely that a child will take up or stay involved in sport in later years so early adoption is an investment in our children."

:: To find out more about taking part in Shooting Stars visit Ifa/shootingstars.com.

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