Are uniforms excluding girls from sport? 

March 2021

Chloe P. – 14 year old, Bendigo, Victoria

As I get ready to try out for the state gymnastics team, I find myself talking to my mum about my uniform and making sure no bra straps or knickers are peeking out from under my leo, rather than the competition I am about to compete in. The night before competition I’ll be trying everything on, to triple check it will hold in place because if they can be seen, even the tiniest bit, it will be a deduction from my score and my wardrobe rather than my tumbling skills will determine my results. Once I get to the competition, I ll keep my shorts on until the last minute, because I feel uncomfortable in just a leo and I have to wonder Am I alone in feeling uncomfortable about my uniform? Why can I train in whatever uniform I feel comfortable in, but competitions strictly enforce their uniform policies? Would it really hurt the sport, for me to be allowed to compete wearing a pair of shorts or skin coloured underwear which could be seen?

I have read about girls my age wanting to wear shorts to play netball like the boys and other girls wanting to wear a t-shirt under their footy jumper so their bras don’t show. I notice other girls at gymnastics competitions also leaving their shorts on until the last minute and I realise I m not alone but they, like me aren’t allowed to wear a uniform they feel comfortable in. I find it difficult to understand why we can t make a choice for ourselves, as I am sure that a request to wear shorts or a t-shirt isn t going to impact on a girl s ability to play sport. Sadly, for many self-conscious girls, what you wear will have a significant impact on their participation.

Clubs and sporting organisations should provide girls (and boys) with the opportunity to decide what their uniform is and allow alternatives to skirts, dresses and leotards, so that we can focus on competing and having fun. Sport should be about encouragement to participate, however you feel comfortable. In a world where gender equality and identity, as well as cultural inclusivity are important topics, it would be nice if sporting organisations began to understand that freedom of choice in something so simple, could have a huge impact on increasing participation and in turn, improve the self-confidence of young women.

Uniforms should be comfortable for everyone to wear and make them feel confident to participate, not a tool for exclusion. Can you consider how your club is supporting young women to feel comfortable at play?