National research has highlighted the importance of offering sports uniforms that make teenage girls feel comfortable and confident.
- New research finds girls want sport uniforms that are functional rather than fashionable
- Schoolgirls prefer to wear shorts and tee-shirts when playing sport, rather than skirts
- Stretchy, breathable, comfortable fabrics were also desirable
A Victoria University study has found that many girls drop out of sport or choose not to engage in physical activity because they feel embarrassed about putting their bodies on display or not adhering to societal standards of beauty.
Lead researcher Clare Hanlon said the research focussed on 12- to 18-year-old girls located in metropolitan, regional, rural areas.
“Regardless of location, girls had the same thoughts and beliefs,” Professor Hanlon said.
“Schools and sport clubs could have fantastic facilities and programs, but if girls don’t feel comfortable in what they wear as a sport uniform you’re going to be flat out getting them to the venue.”
The study found the type of fabric used in a sports uniform was important, with a preference for function rather than fashion.
“They wanted material that was stretchy, that was breathable, that hides sweat and that had dark-coloured bottoms,” Professor Hanlon said.
Most girls preferred shorts and T-shirts over skirts, and the uniform needed to be designed for girls.
Comfortable sports uniforms a ‘game-changer’ for girls
Ultimately, those surveyed wanted choice.
“For example, giving non-active girls the option for what they want to wear in order to feel comfortable and confident could be a game-changer to make them begin to play sport,” Professor Hanlon said.
“I wouldn’t really want to play sport if I had a skirt or like white pants, or maybe a tight top,” said Ringwood Secondary College student Imogen Waite, aged 12.
“I want to wear black shorts and a polo top that’s kind of loose but not too loose.”
Her mother, Jen Waite, said finding the appropriate uniform meant her daughter could focus on playing sport rather than worrying about her body image.
“It’s so inhibitive if she’s wearing something that’s going to be really restrictive or is really light coloured,” Ms Waite said.
“It just makes her feel uncomfortable.”
Basketballer Lucinda Hulbert, 11, said she did not want to wear tops that were too tight
“Just something that’s well-fitting, for not only yourself but for everyone to feel confident and motivated to play sport in,” Ms Hulbert said.
Elite athletes like tennis champion Naomi Osaka — who often wears leggings under a skirt — were leading the way and could set an example for young girls, according to the study.
AFLW star Katie Brennan said having a range of options was vital for athletes, young and old.
“Being able to have darker shorts is one thing,” Ms Brennan, who captains Richmond.
“I know in the AFL women’s, we still run around in white shorts for our away uniform, and I think that’s something that we could start to have a really powerful conversation about, particularly for girls entering their time of the month and their menstrual cycle while playing elite sport.”
“After this study, we’ve found some really powerful evidence that we do need to change and to be able to keep girls in sport and keep them feeling really comfortable in physical activity and incidental activity is going to be massive for health reasons … but collectively as a community for health and wellbeing,” she said.