When soccer coach Sarah Dwyer-Shick visited Namibia in 2015, she brought a few sports bras with her as gifts for some of the young players. When she arrived, she was shocked to learn that some of the older soccer players, including women on the Namibia national soccer team, did not have access to sports bras.
Wearing a sports bra is very important for women and girls to uphold the breast wall and shape. Continuous and repetitive movements can result in soreness, pain, and sagging. Breasts have no muscle and without proper support, the skin and the cooper’s ligaments can break down and cause sagging, leading to irreversible damage.
Like Dwyer-Shick noticed during her initial trip to Africa, sports bras are often a luxury for many female athletes around the world. Many countries outside of Africa have no access to a basic piece of equipment needed for young girls and women to compete and live an active lifestyle because of cost, limited availability, or societal expectations.
“To have the lack of something as simple as a sports bra be another potential barrier to sports participation struck me as ridiculous, and something that could be addressed,” Dwyer-Shick said.
Dwyer-Shick was a three-sport athlete at Smith College and worked in the sports industry, so she couldn’t believe no one had thought about the effects that something as simple as a sports bra could do to hold young girls back in athletics. Hence, The Sports Bra Project was born.
“While the sports bra itself meets a physical equipment need, knowing that the bra was provided by someone who understands what it’s like to be an athlete provides a personal connection and the knowledge that she’s not alone,” Dwyer-Shick said in an interview with The Guardian. “It creates a global network of athletes supporting athletes.”
Five years later, 16 countries are beneficiaries of The Sports Bra Project, with the support from 27 organizations. More than 4,000 sports bras have been distributed.
The Sports Bra Project “started off really small and was going to be something friends and I did because we recognized the need. We wanted to support organizations that were increasing access to sports as well as provide opportunities to engage our players in giving back to the community,” Dwyer-Shick said in an interview with Smith College. “Some of the programs we support are sports only, but a lot of the programs deal with specific issues to their population and use sports as a vehicle for addressing needs or concerns and toward social change.”
The Sports Bra Project is providing opportunities to sports for women and girls by removing barriers to participation. A sports bra is a simple yet important piece of equipment that can be a major obstacle. Without it, girls are hesitant to participate in sport.
We salute The Sports Bra project for making a major contribution to young girls and women who want to join a sport. Something as simple as a sports bra can give a young woman the confidence she needs to get out and participate.
Make a difference today by contacting the Sports Bra Project and starting a sports bra drive organized by a team or group.
Photo Credit: Instagram