Fri. Nov 26th, 2021

When it comes to getting a sports bra, most women would pop to the shops and buy what they need.

But what if you didn’t have the time, money or freedom to do that, and it created a barrier to playing the game you love?

It’s a reality here in Australia, and many countries abroad.

And for New Yorker Sarah Dwyer-Shick, it was one basic need that wasn’t being addressed, that she knew she could do something about.

In 2018, she created the Sports Bra Project. It’s now a non-profit that distributes sports bras to women and girls who don’t have access to them, removing that barrier to participation.

The project has given out about 7,000 brand new sports bras to women and girls in 30 different countries.

“It’s something that my mum can relate to because she never had a sports bra,” Dwyer-Shick said.

“Every 12-year-old girl who gets her first sports bra, can relate to it.

“Geography, sport, level of play doesn’t matter. It’s universal.”

Australia hasn’t been included so far, but that’s soon to change with a collaboration in 2022.

One of the organisations working with the Sports Bra Project is Women Sport Australia, which says it’s proud to be involved.

“A sports bra is such an important element to ensuring female athletes feel comfortable when engaging in sport and recreation,” said Gen Simmons, President of Women Sport Australia.

“We look forward to seeing bras donated to Australian communities who need them.”

The women ‘dealing with so much’
Dwyer-Shick grew up playing a lot of sport, but soccer was her main game. She played in college, coached intercollegiate soccer for 15 years and remains involved in youth sports.

The idea for the Sports Bra Project came to her before travelling with a non-profit organisation through Namibia. They’d already sent over a shipping container of items like soccer balls, boots and schoolbooks.

“And I thought, ‘you know what, I’m just going to bring sports bras, 30 or 40 of them, let’s see what happens,'” Dwyer-Shick said.

“We were working with a wonderful woman with the Namibian Football Association and we’re in the capital city of Windhoek.

“She’s got some programs that are really far flung in some rural areas. I figured she would take them to those programs.”

But instead, she asked if she could give them to her national team players.

“And I think I just went ‘what’? I was like ‘yes! Please do that!’.”

On a different trip, this time to Brazil, Dwyer-Shick noted the sporadic appearances of women and girls in a soccer program she was running. She discovered some couldn’t arrange transport or needed to mind siblings.

“Some of what the girls and the women said really hit home,” she said.

“What they dealt with culturally, but also that manufactured goods [like sports bras] in Brazil are expensive.

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