Sure, playing sports is a great way to stay active—but they come with other benefits that spill over into the rest of your life.

By Pam O'Brien
September 09, 2019
Jennifer Kupcho of the United States and Maria Fassi of Mexico fist bump on the No. 12 hole during the final round of the Augusta National Women's Amateur, Saturday, April 6, 2019.
2019 Augusta National

Thinking about taking up tennis after watching the U.S. Open? Do it! Research shows that playing a sport like golf, tennis, or soccer goes a long way to helping women achieve success in life.

Ninety percent of high-level female executives, including CEOs, have participated in a competitive sport, according to study by Ernst & Young. The benefits start from an early age: Research from the Women’s Sports Foundation finds that girls who play sports have higher levels of self-esteem than those who don’t.

That’s a message that female athletes like Annika Sorenstam love to share with women and girls of all ages. “Golf teaches you a lot about character and it also prepares you for life,” says Sorenstam, who is considered one of the greatest women golfers and now works to give young female competitors opportunities in golf through her Annika Foundation. “Women who have played sports know what teamwork is. They know what hard work is. They know what commitment is.” (Related: Kathryn Ackerman Is Going to Get Female Athletes In the Spotlight Once and for All)

Annika Sorenstam plays the '3M Greats of Golf' at the Insperity Invitational at The Woodlands Country Club on May 04, 2019 in The Woodlands, Texas.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

High-profile sporting events like the U.S. Open and women’s soccer help drive the point home. And so does the historic first in the golf world in April 2018—the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur, which featured female players from around the world competing on the storied Masters course with such esteemed sponsors as Rolex, a long-term partner of golf and an international partner of the Masters since 1999, backing them. When a club like Augusta National that once famously banned women from joining it, turns around and welcomes them to compete on its fairways, everyone takes notice.

“Tournaments like this help keep young girls in the game,” says Sorenstam, who along with other golf legends and Rolex testimonees Nancy Lopez and Lorena Ochoa, teed off to start the Augusta Women’s Amateur. “And that’s great because when businesses are hiring for leadership positions, they look for candidates who have played sports. They understand that these women know how to execute and take something from start to finish.”

In addition to confidence and dedication, sports teach you other key qualities you need to achieve your goals, Sorenstam notes. Here are three of the ones she finds most important:

You gain mental toughness.

“Being really strong mentally is something that you work on all the time in golf,” says Sorenstam. “That means learning how to forget bad shots, moving on, and picturing good shots. On the golf course, you’re allowed to have 14 clubs. I always felt like mental strength was my 15th club.” (Next read: Tips to Build Mental Strength from Pro Runner Kara Goucher)

You continuously master new skills.

“I played a lot of sports growing up,” says Sorenstam. “I competed in tennis for eight years, and then I did downhill skiing. But I think what really attracted me to golf was that it was difficult. There are so many different aspects of the game—it's not just driving or putting, it's combining it all. And then you play on another golf course, and then you have to adjust all over again.” (Related: Why You Should Try a New Adventure Sport Even If It Scares You)

You focus on the future.

“I like to look ahead. Sometimes I’ll catch myself and say, 'Why are you thinking about that drive? It's gone. You can't do anything about it. Let's focus on what’s next.' And that attitude has helped me a lot in life. The lesson is: Don't dwell on things, move forward.”


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