Professor Clare Hanlon and women from Swimming Victoria wearing their new and improved uniforms

A landmark study, funded through the Victorian government’s Change Our Game initiative, has confirmed a key strategy to keep girls and women involved in community sport is to let them choose their uniforms.

The study by a team of researchers led by Professor Clare Hanlon at the Institute for Health and Sport, Victoria University, follows an initial phase-one study that identified which uniforms make girls feel comfortable and confident when playing sport.

The phase two study The Effects of Sport Uniform Policy Changes to Girls and Women focuses on case studies across netball, swimming and cricket. It found flexible uniform policies and regulations improved girls’ and women’s comfort, readiness and desire to play by:

  • encouraging ongoing participation in the sport (48% agreed)
  • making them feel more confident (41% increase), happier (34% increase) and less self-conscious (30% reduction)
  • providing more freedom (28% agreed) and allowing them to perform at their best (20% agreed).

Professor Hanlon said a key driver behind the research project was to delve deeper into the evidence that body image plays a key role in whether girls are physically active, and that physical activity declines significantly for girls once they hit adolescence.

Phase one of the Victoria University study What Girls Want in Sport Uniforms surveyed more than 300 Victorian girls aged between 12 and 18 on what made them feel comfortable and confident to participate in sport.

It found adolescent girls prefer a choice of uniforms that make them feel ready for sport and not overexposed; clothing that fits well and is not unisex; dark coloured bottoms; and uniforms made from appropriate materials.

And now the phase two case studies confirm a flexible uniform policy - for example by allowing a choice of shorts, skirts or leggings in the team colour - can encourage girls and women ongoing participation in sport and physical activity.

The study was supported by a Change Our Game research grant, and the findings will help guide decision-makers at sports associations, clubs and schools on what uniform options and choices will encourage the participation and retention of girls in sport and physical activity.

To review the summary research findings visit www.changeourgame.vic.gov.au.