Research by Sport Australia AusPlay has revealed 36 per cent girls in Australia, or one in three, are dropping out of sport by the age of 18, primarily due to debilitating peer pressure to look good and body image issues.
To encourage sport participation, world No.1 tennis player, Ashleigh Barty, will share her inspiring story through a new campaign by Tennis Australia titled #PlayForYou, targeted at teenage girls across Australia.
#PlayForYou will swing into action from Monday 4 November in Western Australia, then nationally from January and will run throughout the summer.
Watch the campaign below:
Aside from captivating the sports world with her incredible athleticism, down-to-earth attitude and willingness to spend time motivating players at a grassroots level, Barty, took a much-documented pause in her tennis career at the age of 18 to refresh mentally and “experience life as a normal teenage girl.”
After a two-year break from the sport, Barty, who says the #PlayForYou campaign is close to her heart, returned to tennis in 2016 and was quick to rise up the ranks ever since, holding onto the world No.1 ranking since the US Open in September 2019.
Barty said: “I think the #PlayForYou campaign is beautiful because it encourages girls from across Australia to get involved, choose their own path and not listen to societal pressures.
“I was told a few times along the way that I was too short to make it.”
She added: “I have always loved playing sport and remember picking up a tennis racquet for the first time when I was five.
“I have made so many friends and met so many wonderful people through my tennis journey. I feel very fortunate for the opportunities tennis has provided me.
“In addition to the health benefits, sport is a fantastic way to develop confidence and feel good by doing something physical.
“I hope to see more girls take up sport, whatever they choose.”
Barty continued: “You don’t have to be a professional athlete to experience all the gifts sport delivers.
“The most important thing is having a go and having fun.”
Barty, who was recently named Australia’s Sports Woman of the Year a week after becoming the first female tennis player to win The Don at the Sport Australia Hall of Fame Awards.
To help combat some of the barriers that girls in sport can experience, a television commercial and social media content campaign with the tagline, ‘I Play For Me’, ‘You Play For You’ will spread the #PlayForYou message plus Barty’s core belief of staying true to yourself.
Barty is joined in the campaign by six girls, aged 13-14, and her three-year-old niece, Lucy, who has been an ongoing source of encouragement throughout the intense spotlight of international sporting fame.
Barty added: “If one girl decides to play sport – or not give up playing sport – then I’ll be extremely happy.
“I encourage girls and women to share their sport journeys the campaign, using the campaign hashtag #PlayForYou.”
Tennis Australia CEO and Australian Open tournament director, Craig Tiley said: “We know girls often feel intimidated joining a sports club or exercising in public and we want to remove as many barriers to participation as possible.
“Ash Barty is the perfect role model for young girls to challenge the status quo. She’s an unconventional champion who had the courage to do it her own way.”
The #PlayForYou campaign will accompany increased opportunities for women and girls in tennis as part of $12 million of Federal Government funding announced in January.
Spanning four years, the funding is being used to expand Tennis Australia’s already extensive women-in-sport initiatives.
These include a commitment to grow the number of female coaches, provide girl-specific talent development programs, foster female participation in community leadership and mentoring programs and to increase both the numbers of girls participating in tennis and those who go on to play the game competitively.
Tennis Australia marketing & insights officer, Josie Brown said: “We hope the fun, colourful and encouraging nature of the #PlayForYou campaign content will grab the attention of girls, breakdown barriers and inspire girls to stay in sport.
“The campaign will run predominately across TV, social media and Tennis Australia’s digital channels.
“The aim of our marketing is to tell emotive and relatable stories through tennis, and we are very fortunate to have Ash Barty as the ambassador of this campaign, she is a natural fit.
“Ash has tackled many challenges that young girls still face today, she speaks authentically about her experiences and is comfortable doing so.”