These sports bras are changing lives

The Sports Bra Project
United States (New York)

The Sports Bra Project provides sports bras to those who don’t have access to them, lifting barriers to sports participation.

 

What are you looking for in a sports bra? Most athletes are after a good fit, reliable support, and durability. Of course, a fun design can also help us feel extra confident when we’re practising our favourite activities.

But for many, sports bras can become a barrier to sports participation. Football coach Sarah Dwyer-Shick was travelling with a non-profit organisation through Namibia when she realised that most women were hesitant to play because they lacked the time, money, or opportunity to get the right equipment. Even several Namibian women’s national football team members had never owned “something as simple and essential as a sports bra.”

The Sports Bra Project

Photo courtesy of The Sports Bra Project.

Sarah thought that was “ridiculous, and something that could be addressed” and in 2018, the sports lover from New York decided to start The Sports Bra Project (TSBP), a non-profit that donates new sports bras to athletes in 26 countries.

“Our goal is for a future where the needs, experiences and career aspirations of girls and women in sport are normalised and supported. In an ideal world organisations like The Sports Bra Project would not be needed.” — Sarah Dwyer-Shick, founder of the Sports Bra Project

Relying on a growing network of partners, supporters and volunteers, the project has already delivered over 4 thousand bras across the US and the planet, and helped 31 organisations create opportunities to play in comfort. The latest bra magic? In 2021, TSBP teamed up with ATOOT and Girl Power to provide new sports bras to refugee athletes from Afghanistan.

The Sports Bra Project

Photo courtesy of The Sports Bra Project.

Sports bras can really make a difference in helping young players boost their confidence and self-esteem. Because equipment for male athletes is often prioritised, people who need a sports bra can’t access existing programmes for under-resourced communities that would allow them to experience the physical and mental health benefits of play. And families living in poverty can’t step in when prices are prohibitive:

“Many young girls don’t have a standard bra to wear to school let alone a sports bra. The cost of a sports bra is around 20-30 [Ghanaian cedis]. This amount of money could feed your entire family for three days.” Jordan Palmer of Akwaaba Volunteers in Ghana, quoted by the Sports Bra Project.

The Sports Bra Project delivers more than just fabric. Most bras are collected by groups, coaches, and teams who organise sports bra drives, a great opportunity for young athletes to take ownership of a project and develop leadership skills. Plus, anyone who donates a bra can write a personalised message to the person who’ll wear it, sending international cheers of support and encouragement. Some say “Go get strong! Be bold!” and “You are my sheroe.”

The Sports Bra Project

Photo: Twitter, The Sports Bra Project.

Sarah hopes to “normalise the conversations around women’s needs and experiences in sport”, an important goal to score when 1 in 3 girls leave sports as they hit puberty. TSBP encourages athletes to discuss their needs from a young age, so when their bodies change, a sports bra is simply a new piece of equipment, and not something to feel embarrassed about.

The pandemic put sports activities and bra collection events on hold. Yet Sarah says that there were “unexpected positives that came during that time.” The community of sports lovers went online “to connect across sports and geography” in a way that wouldn’t have been possible at an in-person event. New paths and connections were forged, laying “a foundation for expansion in the future.”

The Sports Bra Project

Photo courtesy of The Sports Bra Project.

AtlasAction: Anyone can help the Sports Bra Project empower athletes — simply donate a coin or a new bra, or launch your own bra drive. Know a group who’d love some sports bra magic? Fill in the application form.

Written by

Bianca Fiore, Editor, Atlas of the Future (12 January 2022)

    Project leader

    Sarah Dwyer-Shick

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