The old idea that girls should not be taught sport or physical culture at all has passed away, ana in some quarters the danger is that we are going to the other extreme.
Cricket for girls. Cricket can be modified so as to make a splendid game for girls
It is even more dangerous for girls to over-hi strain than for boys; and although no girl can grow up with a strong, healthy body, and a sense of fair play and comradeship, without playing games with other children, these must be carefully chosen.
Many running exercises are bad for young girls. Rough games of any kind should be avoided, and even such a game as hockey, which is extremely popular amongst girls, has a very large number of disadvantages, in that it does not supply exercise of the right sort and type.
Where young girls are concerned, it is of the utmost importance that play should be regular, moderate, without excessive strain. As a rule, hockey does not answer any of these requirements. It is played once or twice a week, not daily. It is so hard that school-teachers say that the girls are lethargic and overtired next day. It is exceedingly fatiguing, especially if the girls lead a sedentary life in between, and are really exerting themselves with lessons and mental work.
On the other hand, cricket, which is practically reserved for boys, could be played either by girls alone, or converted into a game in which the family can join with advantage. To this end the ordinary game of cricket must be modified.
Dancing as an exercise for girls. Step dancing can be made a delightful game and exercise combined
In the first place, when the girls are young at least, a soft ball should be used, and the boys or the older players handicapped in some way.
One writer on physical culture has suggested that a good method of handicapping in cricket is to make brothers use a broomstick instead of a bat. Another method of handicapping is to allow the younger players two or three innings instead of one. Also, when young girls play cricket, a much shorter pitch is necessary, and a lighter bat.
With these modifications, the game is a first-rate one for girls, and the educative value of cricket is too well known to require that anything should be said about it. In some of the big girls' schools and training colleges cricket is becoming exceedingly popular. The game can be taught to little girls at home perfectly easily, and whenever there is a garden it can be played at all seasons of the year, except in the very cold weather. It must not be forgotten that a modified cricket can be played indoors in winter.
Of other games of ball suitable for girls, badminton and lawn tennis occupy a high place. But these are hardly suitable for very small girls, who yet require a certain amount of play if they are to develop into healthy girls.
Skipping is such a useful exercise for girls that a special article was given to it in an earlier part of the Encyclopaedia (page 1924, Vol. 3); whilst step-dancing, in which two or three children are taught to dance together, is one of the very best methods of physical culture for young girls. Very few people realise the educative value of hoop bowling. It makes a girl graceful, teaches her poise and balance. It trains the eye, and develops dexterity and co-ordination of the muscles. If the hoop is occasionally bowled with the left hand, then it can be used for purposes of teaching ambidexterity.
Girls can be taught fencing, and there is no doubt that it is an excellent exercise. Light cane walking-sticks can be used, and the girls taught to lunge and practise the graceful and healthy arm exercises necessary for fencing. The game is more suitable for older girls, after the age of twelve or thirteen.
Girls as well as boys should be taught to swim, and this art should be included amongst one of the necessary exercises because of its great utility. In Venice, all children are taught to swim at the age of six years, so that if accidentally they find themselves in the canals they can swim to a place of safety.
The movements necessary for swimming can be learned on dry land, and the exercise is splendid for developing the muscles of the legs, arms, and back. First, the proper sweep of the arms should be mastered, then the movements of the legs. Afterwards, the two can be practised together until the child can perform the swimming exercise involuntarily. When she comes to put this into practice, very shallow water should first be chosen; and if the girl is nervous, a belt can be fastened round her waist so that a second person can give her some measure of support.
Hoop bowling. One of the best exercises for girls of all ages
If swimming is one exercise that ought to be mastered because it may be the means of saving life in the future, rope climbing is another. Every boy and every girl should know how to climb a rope, and to descend easily and quickly from a height by means of a rope.
We never know when we may be in an accident at sea, in a fire in a house or hotel several storeys from the ground. Under such circumstances, the chance might arise of reaching safety by descending a rope. At the sametime,rope climbing is one of the best exercises for strengthening the muscular system. Let anyone whose muscles are untrained try to climb a rope slung upon a branch of a tree or a horizontal bar in the gymnasium, and she will realise how difficult a feat it is to the novice. As a rule, one grips the rope feverishly, and finds it impossible to keep it from slipping between the feet. The truth is that certain muscles of the leg are undeveloped. The arm muscles have not strength to sustain the weight of the body, and until definite practice is obtained, rope climbing is anything but an easy accomplishment.
In teaching children, several knots should be made in the course of the rope which will give some slight assistance to the feet. The child should stand grasping the rope, right hand above left, as high as possible above the head. The left leg is then raised, so that the rope lies inside the knee and outside the foot. The next movement grips the feet, and brings the left foot and leg across the rope. Gradually the hands are raised, then the knees, then the hands, until the climber can go quite a little way without fatigue. Once simple climbing is mastered, and the child learns to descend by means of bringing one hand down under the other and letting the body gradually sink, various fancy exercises can be practised. The child should learn to mount with the right hand leading all the time, then with the left hand leading all the time, and, lastly, hand over hand.
First position for rope climbing. The right hand is held as high as possible. The left foot is ready to rise
If mothers knew how much good carriage in a woman de-pended upon proper physical exercises in childhood, they would pay more attention than they do to physical culture for girls in the schoolroom. Every girl should have a definite time daily spent at physical exercise. She should do deep breathing as a matter of routine when she gets up in the morning, and before she goes to bed. She should be taught such hygienic common sense as that eating should be leisurely, and the food thoroughly chewed ; that fresh air is essential to health and beauty ; that the left side should be trained as well as the right, and that games should fill up the hours of recreation. Sport is becoming recognised as important in the training of girls as well as boys, but even nowadays the average girl does not have enough attention paid to her physical development and bodily health. Physical development and bodily health are in themselves the key-notes to beauty.