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Teen girls are being encouraged to try athletics

August 22, 1997

Sweet 16 was never like this.

``Girls who kick boys’ butts,″ trumpets the headline in the first issue of the girls’ magazine, Jump.

The latest addition to the Weider Publications’ muscle and fitness empire does not rest on fashion and beauty tips. And it fits a trend of encouraging more girls to be daring athletes.

The story focuses on high school girls who compete on boys’ teams in sports such as football, wrestling and ice hockey.

``If I can put on my pads every week, go out there and brave getting trampled by a bunch of huge guys ... I can do anything,″ said 17-year-old Emily Quilter, a Laguna Beach, Calif., high school wide receiver and defensive back.

That’s what the magazine is about, said Lori Berger, Jump’s editor in chief. ``The idea is very much empowerment,″ she said. ``Girls can do anything they want, if they set their mind to it.″

Weider Publications expects active girls to be a lucrative _ and growing _ market segment.

Girls make up 37 percent of high school athletes, according to a report for the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. In 1971, 1 in 27 girls participated in high school sports; in 1994, 1 in 3 did, the report said. In the same time period, half of boys participated in high school sports, the study said.

Girls need more encouragement, the report said. Jump wants to help.

``When girls typically reach seventh grade _ vibrant girls, who are playing soccer _ what happens is they lose sight of themselves,″ Berger said. ``They are dealing with peer pressure and being accepted, and what they had been doing falls by the wayside.″

Jump intends to show that sports are as much a part of a cool lifestyle as knowing how to dress and who to date, Berger said: ``We say, `Dress how you feel _ be brave, be fierce, be bold!′ ″

And girls who don’t get the magazine may still get the message. The federal government, local school districts and the Girl Scouts are also trying to stem the adolescent activity slump.

The Department of Health and Human Services fits in exercise as part of its Girl Power program aimed at healthy lifestyles among girls 8-12 years old.

Girls who stick with exercise are more likely to develop into women with healthier lives, said Dr. Susan Blumenthal, assistant surgeon general and deputy assistant secretary for women’s health in the Department of Health and Human Services.

The President’s Council report calls for vigorous enforcement of the Title IX provisions requiring equal athletic opportunities in schools. It also seeks more research on girls’ attitudes toward sports.

The Girl Scouts also is encouraging troops and councils to link up with sports groups in their areas, through its new GirlSports program, said Sharon Hussey, national membership and program director in New York City. Athletics neatly fits the Girl Scouts’ traditional focus on value-building because it helps to create self-esteem, she said.

The program has lined up a number of athletes such as pro basketball guard and 1996 Olympic gold medalist Dawn Staley as role models. And local leaders will reach out in their communities to women who are active athletes, ``so girls can say, `I can see wanting to be like that person,‴ Hussey said.

End adv weekend editions Aug 23-24

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