Young Women, Self-Esteem and the Hoop

Cara Zara Teaching Kid Hoop Fitness

by Rayna McInturf

The Hooping Movement is relatively young as movements go, and I believe that we are just starting to get a glimpse of hooping’s many positive effects. One that I am particularly interested in and excited by is the effect that hooping has on self-esteem. As a new mother, I’ve joined the ranks of hooping moms who are creating the next generation of hoopers. I’m disturbed though that according to U.S. research fourth grade is the peak level year for a girls’ self-esteem. Ruth Conniff writes in her article Saving Girls’ Self Esteem that nine-year-olds feel great about themselves, but by fifth grade it is a whole different story. What suddenly happens when they turn ten? Anita Gurian of the New York University Child Study Center writes that just before junior high school, a young girls’ self-esteem plummets. “Starting in the pre-teen years, there is a shift in focus; the body becomes an all consuming passion and barometer of worth.” When this happens, their self-esteem becomes too connected to their physical appearance. Hit by a barrage of images telling them what they should look like, many girls just feel that they cannot possibly measure up, while others who are considered ‘gifted’ begin to hide their intellectual talents upon receiving the message that ‘smarts aren’t sexy’.” While there are a number of things that parents can do to help build healthy self-esteem in their girls and young women, how can hooping help?

Susan Stopper writes, “According to The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Report, research suggests that participating in exercise and sports programs can improve girls’ mental health by offering them positive feelings about body image, improved self-esteem, tangible experiences of competency and success and increased self-confidence.” She also shares that female students who participate in regular exercise have better grades, do better on tests and are more likely to go to college. Exercise also helps maintain good health and weight, releases brain chemicals that improve mood, and, when done in a group, can help build relationships. Regular physical activity therefore can support a girls’ mental well being, reduce stress and depression and provide them with feelings of strength and competence.

So what if your daughter isn’t into sports and doesn’t like exercise? That pretty much describes my friends and I when we were teens. Dr. Susan S. Bartell notes that many girls fall into this description and thereby don’t get enough exercise. Finding creative and alternative ways to help your daughter get regular exercise can be the key. Plus, most girls will be more interested in exercise if they can do it with their friends, and if their moms are enthusiastic about doing the activity as well.

Enter hooping! I’m thrilled to have such an incredible, multi-beneficial tool as the hoop to help my daughter develop healthy self-esteem. Hooping as we all know is extremely fun, and can be enjoyed by a wide age range. It’s also very hip and creative. Hooping is a skill set that girls and young women can be proud to gain and share with their peers, fostering confidence as well as community.

Dr. Bartell also encourages parents to “model healthy exercise behavior.” When your daughter observes you participating in regular, moderate exercise, you’ll be setting a healthy example that she’ll be inspired to follow. Besides, you can’t tell your daughter to get off her butt and go exercise if you aren’t going to do it yourself!

Hooping, unlike other forms of dance and even group exercise, is very accessible. It can be done in the comfort of your own home, on your family’s schedule, and for very little financial investment. My one caution is that you make sure to monitor your daughter’s access to instructional hooping videos online and on DVDs. Most instructional hooping videos are produced for an adult audience. The hoopers in these videos can often be described as “sexy” and dressed in somewhat revealing clothing. Sometimes the word “sexy” is even used in the videos. Body positions and postures can be provocative. After all, hooping has its roots in performance art, and is a sensual form of dance. Hoopers featured in such videos, including myself, also often fit into the societal “ideal” of being tall, thin and fit. I’m not going to dive into whether this is right or wrong in this article as that is a whole other topic, but because early sexualization of girls and young women has been recognized as playing a part in their lowered self-esteem, it would be wise to consider your daughter’s exposure to this content. Exposing a girl who may already be having self-esteem and body image issues to such content could have the opposite effect of what you intend. Perhaps you watch and learn from the videos first and then teach your daughter and her friends. Or maybe you all watch the videos together and discuss the hoopers in them, as well as the content, and explore how your daughter feels about them. For younger girls, you may consider a hooping DVD made for kids like Miss Kellee’s KidTribe “Hooper-Size!” DVD.

Of course the self-esteem increasing benefits of hooping are not limited to girls and young women! By participating in hooping yourself and with your family, everyone benefits. Let’s hoop!

In good health,

Rayna

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