Young Women, Self-Esteem and the Hoop

Girls[While columnist Rayna McInturf finishes the tabulations for the 30/30 Challenge (winners announced tomorrow), she’s also had a few other things on her mind like her move this week and her family.]

by Rayna McInturf

The Hooping Movement is relatively young as movements go, and I believe that we are just starting to get a glimpse of hooping’s many positive effects. One that I am particularly interested in and excited by is the effect that hooping has on self-esteem. As a new mother, I’ve joined the ranks of hooping moms who are creating the next generation of hoopers. I’m disturbed though that according to U.S. research fourth grade is the peak level year for a girls’ self-esteem. Ruth Conniff writes in her article Saving Girls’ Self Esteem that nine-year-olds feel great about themselves, but by fifth grade it is a whole different story. What suddenly happens when they turn ten? Anita Gurian of the New York University Child Study Center writes that just before junior high school, a young girls’ self-esteem plummets. “Starting in the pre-teen years, there is a shift in focus; the body becomes an all consuming passion and barometer of worth.” When this happens, their self-esteem becomes too connected to their physical appearance. Hit by a barrage of images telling them what they should look like, many girls just feel that they cannot possibly measure up, while others who are considered ‘gifted’ begin to hide their intellectual talents upon receiving the message that ‘smarts aren’t sexy’.” While there are a number of things that parents can do to help build healthy self-esteem in their girls and young women, how can hooping help?

Susan Stopper writes, “According to The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Report, research suggests that participating in exercise and sports programs can improve girls’ mental health by offering them positive feelings about body image, improved self-esteem, tangible experiences of competency and success and increased self-confidence.” She also shares that female students who participate in regular exercise have better grades, do better on tests and are more likely to go to college. Exercise also helps maintain good health and weight, releases brain chemicals that improve mood, and, when done in a group, can help build relationships. Regular physical activity therefore can support a girls’ mental well being, reduce stress and depression and provide them with feelings of strength and competence.

So what if your daughter isn’t into sports and doesn’t like exercise? That pretty much describes my friends and I when we were teens. Dr. Susan S. Bartell notes that many girls fall into this description and thereby don’t get enough exercise. Finding creative and alternative ways to help your daughter get regular exercise can be the key. Plus, most girls will be more interested in exercise if they can do it with their friends, and if their moms are enthusiastic about doing the activity as well.

Enter hooping! I’m thrilled to have such an incredible, multi-beneficial tool as the hoop to help my daughter develop healthy self-esteem. Hooping as we all know is extremely fun, and can be enjoyed by a wide age range. It’s also very hip and creative. Hooping is a skill set that girls and young women can be proud to gain and share with their peers, fostering confidence as well as community.

Dr. Bartell also encourages parents to “model healthy exercise behavior.” When your daughter observes you participating in regular, moderate exercise, you’ll be setting a healthy example that she’ll be inspired to follow. Besides, you can’t tell your daughter to get off her butt and go exercise if you aren’t going to do it yourself!

Hooping, unlike other forms of dance and even group exercise, is very accessible. It can be done in the comfort of your own home, on your family’s schedule, and for very little financial investment. My one caution is that you make sure to monitor your daughter’s access to instructional hooping videos online and on DVDs. Most instructional hooping videos are produced for an adult audience. The hoopers in these videos can often be described as “sexy” and dressed in somewhat revealing clothing. Sometimes the word “sexy” is even used in the videos. Body positions and postures can be provocative. After all, hooping has its roots in performance art, and is a sensual form of dance. Hoopers featured in such videos, including myself, also often fit into the societal “ideal” of being tall, thin and fit. I’m not going to dive into whether this is right or wrong in this article as that is a whole other topic, but because early sexualization of girls and young women has been recognized as playing a part in their lowered self-esteem, it would be wise to consider your daughter’s exposure to this content. Exposing a girl who may already be having self-esteem and body image issues to such content could have the opposite effect of what you intend. Perhaps you watch and learn from the videos first and then teach your daughter and her friends. Or maybe you all watch the videos together and discuss the hoopers in them, as well as the content, and explore how your daughter feels about them. For younger girls, you may consider a hooping DVD made for kids like Miss Kellee’s KidTribe “Hooper-Size!” DVD.

Of course the self-esteem increasing benefits of hooping are not limited to girls and young women! By participating in hooping yourself and with your family, everyone benefits. Let’s hoop!

In good health,



Miss something recently? Check out Rayna’s recent interview – Rayna McInturf: Life After Hoopnotica.

Rayna McInturf Rayna McInturf began hooping in 2000 and co-moderates’s Hooping Instructors and California Hoopers groups and online forums. She was voted Female Hooper of the Year in 2008 by readers an

16 thoughts on “Young Women, Self-Esteem and the Hoop

  1. Hooping with my four year-old since she could stand seemed like a no-brainer. But oddly enough, I hadn’t thought of myself as belonging to a group of “hooping moms raising the next generation of hoopers.” But, sure enough, that is indeed what we are doing. It’s kind of trippy to think about. Outside of the street performance/circus world, this may indeed be the first generation that has hooped from the beginning of their lives.

    We’re not ones to censor at our house, but luckily my little monkey is always more interested in how creatively performance hoopers dress (“She looks like a butterfly!”) and how much fun they’re having (“Look mommy, she likes to dance like ME!”) than their “boobies.”

    But I’d be really interested to hear from hooping parents with older children. What’s your experience?

  2. I just started dating someone last summer with an 8 yr old. It’s been interesting to see how it evolves. The first I did was buy more hoops. How funny is that? I start dating someone and realize their child needs a hoop too!

    At first hooping was cool and I taught both of them (adult & child) to hoop. Then for a few months the child wasn’t any interest even though I’ve been taking them both to a kid/family/dance/hooping event at least once a month in Seattle. My partner loves hooping and has been trying to hoop a few minutes here and there. After the 30/30 challenge got really going and the kid saw my dedication to practice and my improvement and we went to another family dance/hooping event – and there was a crowd of kids around me trying to hoop like me. Then the child got really interested in hooping; we’ll see how it develops. But definitely modeling my joy and dedication has been good. The child is also naturally round (which I am also) and is already getting negative messages about body image. I’m thrilled to model health at every size and the best I can for a healthy body image as a plus sized adult.

    Although it was interesting a couple months ago the child and a friend disagreed with me when I said I wasn’t athletic. Both kids informed me hooping was a sport and athletic!

  3. Excellent article, Rayna! I’m excited that my 16 year old daughter is taking an interest in hooping lately, after watching me obsess over it for the past couple years. She recently asked me to make her a hoop, and is already starting to pick up some moves and tricks. She noticed the hoop’s mood-boosting effects right away and we both like to think the centrifugal force of the hoop’s spin simply throws bad vibes out of its path! It’s definitely a self-esteem booster for all ages, but getting young girls in the hoop is a very good thing, all around. 🙂

  4. My self esteem has been on an upward motion since I picked up the hoop. I feel healthier, stronger, EMPOWERED lol. I’m 24, and I don’t have any kids, but man I wish I had this avenue when I was a child or in my teens. I can only imagine the impact it would’ve had back then, as I’ve been battling depression and anxiety since about age 5. It really picked up when I was in 2nd grade, and by highschool I was rockbottom in my mental/emotional health. Now, I’m finally getting me back. Thanks for this article.

  5. I’m with you, Dwiizie, I wish I’d had hoopdancing available to me as a teen. I’ve been dealing with bipolar disorder most of my life – same as you, it began very young and just about killed me (almost literally) by highschool. I did have a hoop as a kid, but of course not the awesome hoopdance community and resources we have now. I’m 40 now, and have been hooping for a couple years and it does WONDERS for me mentally as well as physically. I’m glad it’s an avenue available to my daughter in her teens.

  6. loved this article, Rayna!
    i am currently getting my doctorate in clinical psychology and have a great interest in the mental health benefits of increased exercised and a healthier diet.
    i would LOVE to create a study to examine the benefits outlined by Susan Stopper.

    thanks for writing!

  7. Great article Rayna! I have been hooping for a little over a year and been trying to get my oldest daughter into it, she sees the joy it brings me as well as the physical changes. She is 13 and sometimes Mom is cool but and sometime not! 🙂 but since I have really improved my skillls (thank you 30/30 challenge and Hoopnotica Teacher Training) her interest has really peaked along with some of her friends. I am hoping to try to get into the afternoon program and offer some free hooping club to the kids. I think how my life would have been different health wise if I was exposed to the hoop earlier. As well as I think offering physical exercise that is not boring or traditional to these girls is very important. Thank you for the article it has inspired me!

  8. Lovely article. I second the comment by Kid A above!

    Having read some of the articles by Arseny about the benefits that hooping have brought him as a man, I think our culture needs healing on many levels.

    Young women can certainly benefit from hooping for the reasons you mention, but younger guys will most likely also derive benefits from an activity that helps them “feel the flow inside” instead of being limited to sports or athletics that are judged based on the results of the effort, rather than the experience of being.

    Good luck with those contest results!

  9. Great article Rayna. I can certainly relate as I have a 15 and a 10 year old daughter. My oldest starting having self-esteem issues in Grade 4 brought on when body image started to become more important as well as athletic ability. She was often in tears from being told she couldn’t skip with the other girls as she wasn’t good enough. I started hooping about a year later and both girls now hoop and are quite good at it. My 10 year old actually performed a hooping routine for her talent show last year. My oldest hooped along with me on top of a 15′ high tower at camp to much praise from the entire camp population. (Don’t worry she was wearing a safety harness!) She was very proud of herself and delighted in the attention. Hooping has opened up their world view just a little bit more to include some folks who don’t always fit the mold and can be a bit quirky. As they see it, folks just like them!

  10. Love the article Rayna. My daughter is now 19, but I can relate. I am delighted that her & a few of her friends are hooping. I have friends with girls going into that “age” where they are more self aware (9 to 12ish). I’m glad I could introduce them to fun hooping & that it has been helping them get off the couch, computer, game systems, etc…and get active. And when they see me & say- look Mrs. Rhonda- look what i can do now (& then proceed to show me the newest trick they nailed since last time)…oh, i cannot even begin to tell you how happy it makes me. To know they are really enjoying it plus getting healthy. And I’ve been surprised at some of the new music I’ve been turned onto by the younger kids. (sorry, I’m in my mid 30s, so anybody under my oldest age is a kid in my eyes, can’t help it…still dealing with my daughter being an adult woman..& gulp…engaged now!). Oy! LOL! 🙂

  11. Great points, everyone. I’d just like to add that some of my favorite hoop-converts are kids. I think we, as adults, need that self-esteem boost too, but it really warms my heart to see a kid pick up a hoop. The younger ones, like my niece and nephew, still have that sense that anything can be done, so they try things that we as adults may not because it wouldn’t look “right.” And teens and preteens that have been brave enough to ask me what the heck I’m doing are great because you can literally watch them let go of their pretense and just have fun for a little while.

  12. this was just a fantastic read. i just began hooping last week and already my daughters, ages 4, 6, and 8, are keeping the hoop in orbit with little to no effort! something they have always been discouraged over before, due to lack of a proper hoop (instead of a cheap toy), is now something they look forward to coming home from school to do. also, i love that for the first time in a long time, i have the energy from eating right and hooping/exercising regularly, and as many free hours as we can, we walk to the local park with our hoops and spend hours hooping together as a family. i absolutely love it, and so do they. and that’s amazing.

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