SoccerNation’s Carrie Taylor caught up with Sarah Dwyer-Shick, founder of the Sports Bra Project to learn more about the origin and merits of the program. Sarah coaches for Eastern FC (NY), is owner of SJI Training and is the Assistant Coach of the Men’s Program at Dutchess Community College.
Carrie Taylor: What is the Sports Bra Project?
Sarah Dwyer-Shick: Whether worn for comfort or modesty, the sports bra is an essential piece of equipment needed to provide girls and women the freedom to participate in sports,which can then lead onto other opportunities for them, for example, they could write a sports blog or open a training school.
In areas where resources are limited and participation opportunities for females are already scarce, not having a sports bra can become an insurmountable barrier to participation in sports and athletic activities. By partnering with already existing programs and organizations the “Sports Bra Project” is working to change that.
Carrie Taylor: How did the idea come about?
Sarah Dwyer-Shick: Through soccer-related travel in South America and Africa, it became clear to me that encouraging and providing programming for girls and women to play in areas where sport is traditionally open only to men was not enough. Even when programming was available, girls and women were often hesitant to participate because they lacked appropriate equipment – i.e. a simple sports bra – that would provide the needed support and coverage important for modesty and cultural considerations. Without a sports bra even the best run, well-intentioned program became inaccessible.
In 2014, I traveled to Namibia. I had the opportunity to meet and work with Jackie Gertze. She is one of the driving forces behind both the development of the Namibian National Women’s soccer team and an amazing network of programming though Galz & Goals which provides both education and the opportunity to play soccer to girls throughout Namibia. The cultural and logistical barriers are significant. Adding to that the lack of a basic sports bra as an added barrier seemed ridiculous. The modest collection of new sports bras I had brought were eagerly accepted by the older players, many of them members of the national team who had been playing without. I wanted to do more.
Carrie Taylor: Why is this so important?
Sarah Dwyer-Shick: In the U.S. buying a sports bra, is easy. While the prices can vary there are bras available at almost every price point. This is unfortunately not the case in many countries where tangible manufactured goods are expensive at best and not available at worst. If we want to truly encourage and provide opportunities for women and girls to be active and participate in sports they must have access to the necessary equipment, a sports bra.
Carrie Taylor: What are your goals for the program?
Sarah Dwyer-Shick: There are many wonderful programs working to provide opportunities for girls to play by providing education, coaching and donated sports equipment. Unfortunately, the sports bras are not usually a part of this equipment.
The Sports Bra Project connects groups and individuals who want to support girls and women in sports with organizations and programs already working in countries and communities where opportunities and resources are limited. Bras donated to the Sports Bra Project will be given to organizations who will use their already existing networks and programs to distribute them.
“In short, we work to connect female athletes across the globe with the support
they need to pursue their athletic dreams.”
Carrie Taylor: Who will you be impacting?
Sarah Dwyer-Shick: We currently have three projects ongoing for 2017. Sports bras will be sent to the Chituka Village Project in Malawi through the Banda Bola Foundation and Kickin’ Back. We are also working with Cielenou World Children Inc. in Cameroon. In addition to these organizations, Carrie Taylor will be taking sports bras with her when she travels to Kenya and Uganda this summer with Coaches Across Continents.
As the goal is to expand and grow the reach of The Sports Bra Project we encourage people to contact us directly with suggestions and connections to other organizations in need or wishing to contribute.
Carrie Taylor: What can people do to get involved?
Sarah Dwyer-Shick: The Sports Bra Project is designed to be adaptable to both the resources and needs of individuals and groups wanting to participate. Anyone can contact us and simply donate a new sports bra or start a bra drive that can be organized by a team or group. Since communities and groups have varied resources, we want to provide flexibility to allow participants to decide how they want to run their sports bra collection and scale it to an appropriate activity and time commitment for them.
If more direction is wanted or needed, we are happy to be a resource for ideas. Once new sports bras have been collected we will coordinate to get them where they need to go. In structuring it this way we hope to provide easy access to a community service project that directly impacts females and their ability to participate in sports.
We encourage people to contact us directly at SarahJeanInc@gmail.com with suggestions and connections to other organizations in need or wishing to contribute.