A recent study from Victoria University found that having flexible uniform policies are vital to keeping women and girls involved in community sport.
Conducted by a team of researchers from the university’s health and sport institute, the study is phase two of a larger investigation on how uniforms affect the confidence and participation of women and girls in sport. It focused on case studies of local teams that have adopted or encouraged policies that enable players freedom over certain aspects of their uniform. A sample of 44 girls and women from these teams were asked about their thoughts on the changes through a survey.
Forty eight percent of the study’s participants agreed that their team’s uniform changes encouraged them to stay in their sport. Participants also reported that the change in uniform policies made them feel more confident (91%) and happier about their sport (89%).
Additionally, the study found that 41% of participants reported feeling self-conscious due to their previous uniform. This number dropped to 11% with the adoption of a flexible uniform policy, with one participant sharing how being able to wear black pants for cricket helps her feel less awkward about playing sport while on her period.
Phase one of the study surveyed over 300 adolescent girls from Victoria about what made them feel comfortable and confident in sport, finding that they prefer wearing uniforms that make them feel ready for sport and not overexposed. They also expressed their preference for clothing that fit well and is not unisex, dark coloured bottoms, and uniforms made from appropriate materials.
Research lead Professor Clare Hanlon shared that the project was ultimately designed to closely examine available evidence on how body image is a deciding factor on the physical activity of girls, and how physical activity is said to decline significantly once girls reach puberty.
The study was supported by a research grant from the Victorian government’s Change Our Game initiative, which aims to increase the participation of women and girls in sport and active recreation.