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Are uncomfortable uniforms forcing girls to quit sport?

CLAIRE HEANEY, July 19, 2020 9:00AM Herald Sun

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Abbey Tyrrell, 12, Lily Murrihy, 13, and Bronte Mosley, 13 in their basketball, football and cricket uniforms. Picture: Alex Coppel. media_cameraAbbey Tyrrell, 12, Lily Murrihy, 13, and Bronte Mosley, 13 in their basketball, football and cricket uniforms. Picture: Alex Coppel.

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A study will look at girls’ sports uniforms and whether they contribute* to body image issues and teens quitting sport.

Participation rates among girls aged 12 to 14 decrease greatly. By the time they are 14, girls’ confidence levels are 27 per cent lower than boys, Confidence Code for Girls by Ypulse found.

Puberty* plays a role and other research has pointed to girls feeling they are not good enough or are busy with homework, but the Victoria University research will look at the role of sports uniforms.

Victoria University will ask girls aged 12 to 18 years whether sports uniforms for schools and clubs reduce their confidence to take part.

“Specifically, we want to know the aspects of the uniform that make girls feel comfortable and ready to perform,” Professor Clare Hanlon said.

“We hope the information may help schools and sports clubs make better choices when choosing sport uniforms for girls.”

Teens in Sports Uniforms media_cameraA Victoria University study will ask girls like Lily Murrihy, 13, Bronte Mosley, 13, and Abbey Tyrrell, 12, how they feel about their sports uniforms. Picture: Alex Coppel.

The study, funded by the Office for Women in Sport and Recreation and conducted with School Sport Victoria, will generate* an online guide for schools and sports clubs. It is open to all girls whether they are playing sport or not.

Prof Hanlon said while there were fantastic sports programs in and out of schools, a key barrier might be whether girls felt ready to participate or comfortable in uniforms that might be too tight, poorly cut or make sweat stains prominent*. The type and colour of the fabric used might also make girls feel uncomfortable.

“We will listen to the voice of girls and base the guide on what they need to make them feel confident,” she said.

Examples include football jumpers which are often unisex* but have gaping holes that make girls self conscious that people can see their bras.

Prof Hanlon said an answer might include allowing T-shirts or long sleeve tops under the jumpers.

“Discovering what women and girls need to feel comfortable and confident in sports uniforms is vital to assist them to feel ready to become physically active. Choice is important,” she said.

Women's Olympic Football Tournament Qualifier - Australia v China PR media_cameraMatlida’s captain Sam Kerr is at the top of her game as researchers study how to stop teenaged girls turning away from sport. Picture: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Girls Uniform Agenda’s co-founder Simone Carris praised the study for seeking input from girls.

“It will help guide the selection of girls uniforms for sporting codes as well as schools,” she said.

“Our expectation is that, once the research is completed, schools will look at the data to help guide decision making around formal school uniforms as well as sports uniforms.

“School aged girls have long been telling us that they want choice. The choice of comfortable and suitable pants and shorts, as usually it is those options that are not always available to girls.”

GLOSSARY

  • contribute: help cause
  • puberty: the time where children start to develop into adults
  • generate: create
  • prominent: easy to see
  • unisex: for both males and females

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. How much lower are confidence levels in girls compared to boys by the age of 14?
  2. Which university is conducting the study?
  3. What age range of girls is the study looking at?
  4. Name two reasons girls might feel uncomfortable in sport uniforms.
  5. What type of uniform is often unisex?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Sports style solution
Choose a favourite sport and design a new sports uniform for your school or local team that is designed specifically for that sport. Make the design your personal ideal choice by including features that you would feel most comfortable and confident in, and that you think are practical for best performance. Draw the front and back view of your design, including labels and explanations of at least three design choices you have made and why you think they are an important feature.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Health and Physical Education, Design and Technologies

2. Extension
Write a letter to your school’s principal or school council (or your team’s committee) to convince them to adopt the uniform you designed. Make sure you support your request by giving some good reasons for the change. See if you can include some ideas, expert opinions or statistics from the original article in your arguments.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English

VCOP ACTIVITY
In pairs, form an opposing view to your partner about girls’ sport’s uniforms. You will have to think of uniforms mentioned in the article and others you may have seen or had to wear. Come up with three arguments each using connectives to support your case.

HAVE YOUR SAY: How could your sports uniform be improved?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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