Girls who play team sports from a young age grow into healthier, smarter and happier children, according to University of Wollongong researchers.
UOW's Early Start Research Institute surveyed more than 4000 children between the ages of eight and 10, over a two-year period. They found girls aged between 8 and 10 who played team sports continuously over that time had better physical health, goal-setting skills, and better performance at school.
"Girls who played sport paid better attention in class, kept up with school work, and generally functioned better at school," said researcher Dr Stewart Vella.
"Physical activity is a big driver of children's quality of life."
Dr Vella said physical health benefits from team or individual sports were the same, but girls in team sports developed better social skills including co-operation, making friends and emotional regulation.
"There is something about the social context of team sports that make them very beneficial, developing positive social networks and even protecting against depression," he said.
Luke Hawkesby, whose twin girls play netball for the Wests Diamonds, said the benefits of team sport were clear.
"It helps develop life skills, and gets them out interacting with different kids," he said.
"The team they play in doesn't have any other girls from their school, so it helps them get out and meet new friends too."