The Sports Bra Project Is Removing Barriers Of Entry To Sport - Women's Health

The Sports Bra Project Is Removing Barriers Of Entry To Sport

The non-profit distributes sports bras to women and girls who don’t have access to them, removing the barrier to participation and ensuring more women are encouraged to participate in the sports they love.

For most of us, shopping for a sports bra is an experience to be relished. If you’ve ever exercised in an ill-fitting bra, you’ll know the discomfort that zaps the life out of you quicker than snapchat to an iPhone battery. Be it the compression or underwire, few things can drain us of our motivation to exercise than the pain of an unsupportive or restrictive sports bra. But for many young women, sports bras aren’t just an opportunity to inject some style into your workout wardrobe, but also a barrier to entry completely. With limited time, money or freedom to shop for such clothing items, these women are barred from doing what they love most. 

It makes the Sports Bra Project an incredible cause. Created by New Yorker Sarah Dwyer-Shick, the project sought to address this barrier to sporting participation. Created in 2018, the Sports Bra Project is a non-profit that distributes sports bras to women and girls who don’t have access to them, removing that barrier to participation. As the ABC reports, the project has since given out around 7,000 brand new sports bras to women and girls in 30 different countries. 

For Dwyer-Shick, it all started when she went travelling with a non-profit organisation through Namibia. They’d sent over a shipping container of items including the likes of soccer balls, boots and schoolbooks, but the idea came to her that she should also pack some sports bras. She ended up packing somewhere from 30 to 40 of them, without any real expectations that they’d come in handy. “We were working with a wonderful woman with the Namibia Football Association and we’re in the capital city of Windhoek. She’s got some programs that are really far flung in some rural areas. I figured she would take them to those programs,” explains Dwyer-Shick to ABC. Instead, she asked if she could give them to her national team players. 

A similar experience in Brazil also showcased the barriers of entry for women looking to play sport. “What they dealt with culturally, but also that manufactured goods [like sports bras] in Brazil are expensive. I thought, ‘OK, you’re dealing with so much, can we address this little piece of it?’ And that was kind of the beginning.”

While the countries that have since been involved with the Sports Bra Project have seen participation for women and girls in sport rise significantly, Australia hasn’t been included. But that’s going to change in 2022 thanks to a collaboration between the two. Next year, Women Sport Australia will work with the Sports Bra Project to become an active participant, helping supply more women on home soil with the garment in the hope that they can continue to participate in the sports they love. 

“A sports bra is such an important element to ensuring female athletes feel comfortable when engaging in sport and recreation,” said Gen Simmons, President of Women Sport Australia. “We look forward to seeing bras donated to Australian communities who need them,” Simmons added. 

Since implementing the project, Dwyer-Shick has come to see just how important the bare essentials can be when it comes to improving participation rates amongst women in sport. The bras largely come from groups and individuals who do sports bra drives, allowing young women to take on leadership roles without much pressure. When someone donates a bra, they also get the chance to write a personalised message of support to the recipient, adding a personal note to the experience which is forging community around the world. 

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