Sport that inspires

At VU, safe and inclusive sport participation drives our sport and health research.

From community to professional level, on field and off field challenges, our research is dynamic, tangible and already having a national and international impact.

Changing uniform policies to keep girls in the game

Many girls stop participating in sport when they reach adolescence.

A study led by VU Susan Alberti Women in Sport Chair, Professor Clare Hanlon, confirmed that flexible uniform policies improved girls’ willingness to play sport.

The phase two study The Effects of Sport Uniform Policy Changes to Girls and Women (PDF, 4.26 MB) focuses on case studies across netball, swimming and cricket.

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 research has prompted major sports organisations and peak bodies to change their uniform policies to reflect women and girls’ comfort levels and expectations, to encourage continued sport participation.

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Safeguarding – preventing violence in children’s sport

Dr Mary Woessner and Dr Aurélie Pankowiak conducted the largest Australian study on experiences of violence in children’s sport.

The research found more than 80% of children experience violence – psychological, physical or sexual – while participating in community sport.

Speaking out: children’s experiences with violence & sport

Led by Dr Mary Woessner and Dr Aurelie Pankowiak, 'Telling adults about it: children's experience of disclosing interpersonal violence in community sport' was published in Sport in Society.

The research explores the frequencies of childhood disclosures of violence in sport and how the interactions unfolded through surveys from 800 participants and interviews with individuals who had disclosed their experiences to an adult. Participants were subjected to a range of behaviours including sexual, emotional and physical abuse, neglect, bullying and harassment.

The research calls for an urgent need to revisit current disclosure procedures and develop better prevention and response initiatives for all forms of abuse/violence in sport. Community sport clubs are largely volunteer based and often these volunteers are parents playing multiple roles within the clubs.

“We need training and support for all club volunteers on how to recognise and respond to instances of violence. As a community we need to all be prepared to call-out all forms of violence in order to break the silencing cycle of normalising violence that clearly exists in community sport,” Dr Woessner said. 

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