A new study has revealed that 52% of British schoolgirls feel self-conscious in their sports kit, something boxer Fran Hennessy is trying to change.
Food and period poverty are two topics we’re hearing more and more about, but the detrimental impact that not being able to afford often expensive sports bras can have on school girls is something that’s rarely discussed. Exercising without proper support can lead to breast pain and compromised performance which, in turn, can increase the risk of injury. However, on a day that’s typically awash with performative and hollow campaigns, one athlete is speaking out and petitioning the government to step up and support schoolgirls by subsidising sports bras for girls from low-income families.
The petition, led by boxer Fran Hennessy, comes as a result of new research by Women in Sport and activewear brand Stronger, which revealed the grim reality of how kit issues hinder girls’ participation in schools. According to study findings, 52% of British schoolgirls aged 11-18 feel self-conscious in their sports kit.
There are, of course, many reasons PE kit may contribute to dips in self-confidence; however, the lack of a supportive sports bra has been identified as a core factor that causes schoolgirls to experience discomfort while wearing PE kit. Study participants reported feeling anxious about breast comfort while engaging in school sports, and said they feel self-conscious about breast movement during activity. And, while many said they don’t feel they can jump or run freely due to insufficient breast support for doing sports, 56% said they feel physical discomfort or pain when exercising as a result. Participants also shared that gendered school PE kits made them feel sexualised, further highlighting the need for kit reform in schools.
Of the 1,000 surveyed as part of the study, eight in 10 said that wearing a sports bra helps them feel more comfortable when they play sports. However, only 36% wear a sports bra for school sports. This is partly because sports bras often aren’t featured on PE kit lists, but it’s also because they aren’t always accessible. Upsettingly, 19% of girls who don’t wear sports bras in school sports cannot afford one.
Today, following an open-letter from England’s Lionesses in the wake if their Euros victory last summer, the government pledged to ensure that girls get equal access to all sport, including football, at school. But, girls can only participate if they have suitable and supportive kit. This petition aims to stop schoolgirls from being excluded from sports by giving them access to affordable sports bras. The majority of participants said they would wear a sports bra if they were given one.
Of the campaign, Hennessy said: “I wear a sports bra almost daily, which I am lucky enough to be able to afford. It’s upsetting that many girls can’t, who have dreams of a professional sporting career.
“Sports bras are such an essential part of kit and they should be on all girls’ kit lists, no question. Without better access and education around sports bras, we could be jeopardising girls’ sporting careers, as they won’t feel comfortable or confident enough to excel in their chosen sport at a young age.”
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Stephanie Hilborne, CEO of Women in Sport, emphasised the importance of appropriate kit for schoolgirls. “Girls belong in sport – for its physical benefits and as a powerful antidote to the anxiety and related illnesses that plague the lives of many teenage girls. By failing to provide girls with the right clothing we are perpetuating the exclusion of girls from sport.
“Schools should include sports bras on their uniform lists and give girls a voice and choice in the sports kit that is right for them, so they can enjoy the joy and freedom of sport and exercise.”
To support the project and help British schoolgirls to access affordable sports kit, Stronger is providing a discount on its sports bras with the discount code SPORTBH-20.
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