If you’re interested in choosing a sports camp for your daughter, you may be interested to know that the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports says more girls are participating in a wider variety of sports than ever before, and it should be encouraged by parents, coaches and educators.

A report produced by the President’s Council under the direction of The Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sports at the University of Minnesota notes that girls who participate in sports often lead longer and healthier lives, experience increased self-esteem, improved physical and mental health, relief from symptoms of stress and depression, and increased school performance. In addition, youth sports can act as a deterrent to negative behavior like smoking and using drugs. That’s because competitive sports provide an outlet for expression, developing friendships and a sense of self-worth.

Popular girls’ sports camps today include soccer, volleyball, basketball, softball, swimming, gymnastics, tumbling and cheerleading.

“Being involved in tumbling and cheer has proven to increase young girls’ self esteem,” said Jennifer Lannon, owner of Arizona All-Stars Tumbling and Cheer, a west Tempe gym that celebrates its 10th anniversary this month.

“We have enjoyed watching so many of these girls improve over the last 10 years to levels that they never even imagined. I keep saying that I’m going to get an iPad and video each new tumbler or cheerleader that comes in the door and show them their progress three, six or nine months down the road as they improve,” she said.

Cheerleaders from schools all over the East Valley come to Lannon’s gym for instruction in everything from tumbling and stunting to jumps and choreography. Because the gym is also home to six competitive cheer teams, Lannon has become an expert in helping girls develop their leadership skills and their drive to succeed as well as the confidence to handle fierce competition, all skills which prepare them for adulthood.

“There is no better joy than seeing an athlete smile because of the hard work and dedication they did. Being able to have something or someplace to call your own is so important in today’s society, especially for young girls,” Lannon said.

How to choose the right sport for your daughter? The President’s Council suggests a great way to find the best fit for your child is to sign them up for a camp so they can sample the sport over the summer months without a long-range time or financial commitment. To make it even more fun, consider signing up with friends.

Arizona All-Stars Tumbling and Cheer is offering a variety of full- and half-day summer camps for girls ages 4 and up, some of which include cheer and tumbling instruction in addition to Zumba, yoga, games and dance; one camp even offers a trip to SunSplash water park. The gym is located just east of Elliot Road and Interstate 10 at 7245 S. Harl Ave., Suite 3.

For more information, www.azallstars.com or call (480) 831-1105.

• Nancy Puffer is a local journalist and mother of two. Her daughter cheers on a competitive team through Arizona All-Stars. Reach her at nancy.puffer@cox.net.

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