There are a lot of young female athletes....they love playing the "jock" role. They love the camaraderie of the team. They love feeling capable. Unfortunately, once puberty rears its ugly head....it never favors the girls.
Boys, on the other hand, grow stronger, taller and gain muscle mass. Girls, on the other hand, gain a significant amount of weight pretty fast, their hips start to spread, their balance and coordination falters, they slow down (because of the weight gain and lack of coordination) and they simply do not feel capable any longer.
So, what happens? Girls quit. They feel lackluster that younger and smaller girls are faster than them. They remember when they were the hitting stars on their softball team, and they know that they are simply treading water now, hoping not to be the worst. Its even more awful when you are the first in your age to start developing hips! So, what to do?
Do not let any girl specialize in a sport BEFORE puberty! She will only see herself dwindle in skills, which lays a sad foundation for self worth and athleticism in the future. Now, of course, there will be differences of opinion here....but I read this and its so clear to me that this is a good practical solution to minimizing a girl's self esteem issues as a result of puberty.
Now, the weight gain is a completely different issue...you start a new athletic endeavor the focuses on building lung capacity, strength and endurance, which simultaneously rids her of the extra few pounds. You can't stop puberty...you can't stop the weight gain that is needed for puberty....but you can surely try to temper it as best you can. Unfortunately, sports aside, girls can be cruel, and the more fit and confident they are, the less of an impact their puberty will have on their social environment.
So, for all intents and purposes, running fits the bill for my daughter right now. It will rid her of those few extra pounds, create the endurance and strength that she needs to feel capable, and help her adjust her body's new balance in this new body...a body that she will be in the rest of her life, so the sooner she gets accustomed to it, the better. All I need to do is keep her engaged, and while I don't expect her to be happy about it all the time, I also hope that she will be happy about it some of the time!