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Playing sports

Girls playing basketball.

Is there an athlete inside you waiting to get out? You can read about the topics below. (And remember, if sports aren't your thing, there are lots of other ways to be active!)

Why choose sports? arrow. top

Playing sports can help you make friends, boost your mood, and teach you tons of skills. Girls who play sports may:

  • Have greater self-esteem and less depression
  • Learn how to set goals and work hard
  • Have a more positive body image
  • Learn about working as part of a team
  • Do better in school

Fitness for all

Do you have an illness or disability? Check out our info on finding sports and activities that might be right for you. Plus, read about special gear to help get you going.

Picking a sport arrow. top

It helps to think about a few issues when choosing a sport. Start by asking yourself some questions:

  • Do you like to work together with teammates, the way you do in soccer or lacrosse?  
  • Do you prefer to work more on your own, as in swimming or track?
  • How do you feel about competition? Does it twist your tummy? Maybe inviting a friend to shoot hoops or go hiking is more for you.  
  • Do you like to keep moving? Does soccer, basketball, or field hockey sound fun to you?
  • Do you like music? You might think about dance and cheerleading, which can offer great workouts.
  • Are you interested in relaxing and connecting your mind and body, like you do in yoga or Pilates (say: puh-LAH-teez)?

Check out this list for more sport and activity ideas. You'll learn what parts of the body each activity works, how to play, and more.

Team time

Are you on a team? That's great. Playing on a team can offer amazing benefits — and fun. But you may need to spend time being active in addition to your team practices. Experts say that many players don't get the recommended "dose" of daily exercise during practice. Remember, your body needs 60 minutes of activity every day (and time on the bench doesn't count)!

Safety in sports arrow. top

Stay in the game with these tips:

  • If you're new to a sport, work your way up slowly.
  • Before you start a sport, see your doctor for a sports physical. Some states require these examinations to make sure you are healthy enough to play. But even if a sports physical is not required, it makes good sense to get one.
  • Follow safety rules for your sport. In cheerleading, for example, don't practice on hard, wet, or uneven surfaces, and don't create pyramids that are more than two people high. And learn what to do in case of an injury or emergency.
  • Talk to your coach about any safety concerns, or ask your parent or guardian to talk to your coach.
  • Learn how to help your teammates stay safe. For sports like cheerleading or gymnastics, for example, learn how to be a good spotter.
  • Make sure to read about concussions. Anyone who might have a head injury should not practice or compete until a health professional says it's safe.
  • Give your body a break. Experts suggest the following:
    • Take at least one day off per week from your sport or training schedule.
    • Take at least two to three months off from your sport each year.
    • If you train a lot in a high-impact sport, such as running, try replacing some intense training with lower-impact activities, such as biking.
  • Try different sports. Playing the same sport over and over can put repeated stress on certain parts of your body. Doing a mix of sports and activities can help prevent this problem.
  • Strengthen your muscles. Conditioning exercises, such as sit-ups and push-ups, can strengthen the muscles you use when you compete. Learn more about strengthening exercises.
  • Skip special supplements. Products may claim to help you lose weight, bulk up, or improve your performance. Often these don't work, and they can even hurt you. Remember, all you really need to succeed is good nutrition.

Muscle mistakes

Teen athletes sometimes try taking steroids to build their muscles and improve their performance. Using steroids in this way is illegal and dangerous. Steroids can cause problems with your periods and your heart, make hair grow on your face, and even change your behavior. That's not a very winning approach!


Content last reviewed March 27, 2015
Page last updated July 29, 2015