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The Hair Barrier For Female African American Athletes

According to the Women's Sports Foundation, "African American female athletes' concerns about their hair and appearance are barriers to participation in sport."

According to the Women’s Sport’s Foundation research report, Chasing Equity: The Triumphs, Challenges, and Opportunities in Sports for Girls and Women, it has come to light that “African American female athletes’ concerns about their hair and appearance are barriers to participation in sport.” 

For many, joining school sports teams is the norm but it truly is both a privilege and a luxury. African American female athletes face difficult societal challenges. And if you’re asking yourself “So what? It’s just high school volleyball.” Then let’s consider the impact exercise has on our physical and mental health. According to Hair Care Practices as a Barrier to Physical Activity in African American Women, regular physical activity is associated with a decreased risk for obesity and obesity-related conditions. Because exercise has obvious health benefits, it is concerning that nearly 40% of African American women avoid exercise at times due to hair-related issues. It’s no secret that a good workout will not only get your heart pumping but dripping in sweat! And the sweat is what causes traditional hairstyles to revert to their native texture.

Work Out Hairstyle

Did you know that African American women who avoid exercise because of hair concerns were almost 3 times less likely to be sufficiently physically active? Now, we may not be able to change our body’s response to exercise but we can raise awareness and increase education on methods to preserve and maintain hairstyles.

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There are a variety of Youtube videos regarding Black hairstyle maintenance, such as “Working out While Relaxed | How to Maintain Straight Hair.”

Alissa Hair

Popsugar, listed 9 Ways Black Women Can Protect Their Natural Hair While Working Out, including Bantu Knots, Box Braids, Pineapple Updo, and more. 

We understand that while these resources are beneficial, they do not solve the root of the problem. Diversity among school staff does not only need to be valued but prioritized. With a representative coaching staff, African American female athletes will be supported and encouraged to participate in team sports. And won’t let a bad hair day get in their way!

Staurowsky, E. J., Watanabe, N., Cooper, J., Cooky, C., Lough, N., Paule-Koba, A., Pharr, Williams, S., Cummings, S., Issokson-Silver, K., & Snyder, (2020). Chasing Equity: The Triumphs, Challenges, and Opportunities in Sports for Girls and Women. New York, NY: Women’s Sports Foundation.