This one thing could keep your tween girl in sports

Thanks to Chris Deacon for her excellent journalism in the Sept 6 issue of Today’s Parent. Her article follows!

Studies show that girls start quitting sports in the tween years—this solution might surprise you.

Growing up, Juanita Lee ran track and rowed, but her sport of choice was tennis. She played the game from age six until age 14 when— seemingly overnight— her breasts grew from a 32A to 34DD.

The change immediately set her apart from her more petite, flat-chested opponents and made the teenager extremely self-conscious. She hated the sensation of her breasts moving when she ran on the court and how exposed she felt in her scoop-neck tennis dress whose padded cups only accentuated her size. And because breasts move independently of the body, (both up and down and side to side,) Lee also started experiencing breast pain, an issue she was too embarrassed to discuss with her parents. Not long after, Juanita used a sports injury as an excuse to quit tennis altogether and turned her attention to rowing, where breast movement wasn’t an issue, and running, a sport that—while still painful—meant she could wear baggy t-shirts for coverage.

Lee isn’t the only girl whose breast development has affected their participation in sports. In a 2016 survey of more than 2,000 British girls aged 11 to 18, nearly three-quarters said their breasts got in the way of enjoying sports. According to the study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, when girls hit puberty they start pulling out of athletics and skipping gym class to avoid the pain and embarrassment of breasts that are either too big, too small or —the chief complaint—too bouncy.

It turns out there could be an easy fix—a sports bra. While a given for professional female athletes, this undergarment is often omitted from the equipment list of girls’ sports teams. And while jockstraps are offered to boys for protection and to prevent discomfort caused by excessive movement during exercise, sports bras that serve the same purpose for girls have not been a part of the cultural conversation. In fact, only 10 percent of girls surveyed in the British study had worn one.

So how can a parent navigate the tricky terrain of breast development and sports with their tween? Here are five tips:

Start the conversation early: Your daughter may not need the support of a sports bra yet, but it’s worth tackling the topic early on, before she gets embarrassed about it. If she’s not ready for the discussion in the moment, MaryAnne Gucciardi—whose company, Dragonwing girlgear specializes in performance base-layers such as sports bras and support tops for girls aged 8 to 17, encourages parents to stick with it. “It’s a hard conversation for a parent,” she says, noting that dads in particular, have a hard time with the topic, “but it’s even harder for a child. They don’t know yet what they need. They just know what they’re feeling.”

Be matter of fact: Gucciardi also suggests sticking with the facts when broaching the idea of a sports bra. “You could say something like, “I want you to play your best. I want you to feel comfortable, and have good support to prevent injury and stay healthy and just like boys with a jockstrap for support and to prevent injury, this is what girls wear,’” she says. Explain to you daughter the difference between your average tween bra (which often looks like a sports bra) and the real thing. Most tween bras are made with thin cotton and flimsy straps. A good sports bra, by contrast, has smooth but stretchy fabric that moves as the athlete moves, with straps and a band that stay in place.

Shop it alone: While the odd girl might enjoy looking for a bra with her mom, most don’t, says Gucciardi, so parents should start the process. One idea, she says, is to buy a few different styles of sports bras and support tops and leave them in your daughter’s drawer—while keeping in mind she probably won’t model them for you. “She might have you hand them back and forth until she finds one that she likes,” she says, “Be patient. If you let her control the conversation, then she’ll feel in control of her body.”

Go for fit: Thirteen-year-old Melanie Paulson’s* parents have been helping her shop for sports bras since she started developing breasts in Grade 4, with little success. “I don’t find them very comfortable,” says the avid hockey player, who now shops in the women’s section. But many women’s sport bras are padded which makes breasts look bigger—the last thing most tweens and teens want. And Gucciardi cautions that an improper fit—caused by a bra that’s too big— can lead to back problems. “You could have a bigger bust but a small rib-cage,” she explains, suggesting that parents seek out sports bras that are specifically designed for tweens and teens, and that take this silhouette variation into account so that the fit is precise. Lululemon, Nike and Gucciardi’s brand all carry quality sports bras for this age group. Look for a fit that is snug but not tight with straps that don’t droop or slip. And if you’re buying online, it’s worth taking the time to measure your daughter and refer to the size chart rather than order the size that corresponds to her age. Parents should measure just under the rib cage to get the right fit as opposed to across the chest, and, when the bra is on, be able to fit not more than one finger under the band. The band should be as wide as possible while still being comfortable for your child.

Comfort is key: Gucciardi recommends quality sports bras that use high performance, moisture wicking fabric (that moves the sweat away from the skin) with mesh for coolness and breath-ability. “Girls get super embarrassed when they think they sweat and smell and that people notice it,” she says. Also look for thin, removable pads for coverage and softness. “Nipples showing is another source of embarrassment,” she says. Nipple chafing— especially common with runners— is also an issue. Finally, choose a sports bra that’s seamless and tag-free to prevent irritation.

Now that you’ve got a bra for your daughter, can you really expect it to be the difference between giving up sports and staying in the game? For Juanita Lee, now 27, the answer is—absolutely. “I was kind of a shy kid and I never felt comfortable saying, ”oh, my boobs hurt.” she says. In grade 10, Lee got her first sports bra at the suggestion of her female rugby coach, and she played rugby until the end of high school.

*Name has been changed.

Nutrition for athletic girls is a source of confidence!

March is National Nutrition Month and we’d like to share tips on good nutrition for girl athletes.  Balance is key. It is important to include lean protein, nutrient rich carbohydrates (whole grain, non GMO if possible), low-fat dairy, fruits, and vegetables in an athlete’s diet. It is essential to be properly hydrated, so drink your water throughout the day! Some folks say 1/2 your body weight in ounces – shoot for at least eight glasses.

To prep for a game, start out with a hearty breakfast rich in carbohydrates to keep your energy up, move on to a balanced lunch containing protein vegi, carbohydrate combination, spread out protein consumption throughout the day, try to avoid bad fatty foods (eat the good ones like avocado), and eat your last meal two to three hours before game time to be sure you have digested it. For our recommendations for post-game recovery foods check out our guide here!

Join the conversation and leave us a comment on what food routine works for you.

(photo source: mountain-bike-world)

Dynamic Stretching advice from Dr. Lindsay Di Stefano and Dragonwing

Spring sports tryouts are underway -and warming up safely is key to playing well and minimizing the risk of injury. In this blog, we asked Dr. Lindsay Di Stefano to provide readers with evidence-based, practical information to help encourage safe and healthy participation in sports for all athletes, but with a special focus for pre-adolescent and adolescent girls.

First Step to Any Activity: A Proper Warm-up

In the past, you may have witnessed this scene –fifteen girls put their bags down and jog around the soccer field together. They stop at midfield and align themselves in a circle with one teammate in the center. This “captain” leads her team through a series of static stretches by counting off 30 seconds per stretch. After the team has completed a few stretches, they walk off the field to their waiting coach and begin practice. Have you seen this scenario before?
I surely have! Here is an example of another common scenario frequently played out on youth sport fields: The team arrives, they start talking to one another, catching up on the day’s events, and may start juggling or passing to one another before the actual practice begins. Or a third scenario occurs when an athlete walks out of their front door and starts running three miles. Unfortunately, the athletes in all three scenarios are not helping themselves be as prepared as possible for any training, practice, or game. Not only are these athletes not putting their bodies in the best condition for performance, but they may also be increasing their risk of injury.
A better solution to these examples above is to gradually prepare your body for the upcoming activity. Generally, the first thing to do is to start increasing your heart rate, which will begin to “warm-up” your muscles. There are many ways to accomplish this goal. You can walk at progressively faster speeds, leading to a jog, possibly incorporate some quicker runs, or you can ride a bike with low resistance, or even play a small game that involves low to moderate effort. The goal is to just get your body moving!
After you are feeling “warm” and perhaps even sweating a little bit, you can start performing some specific exercises for various muscles. These exercises will help the muscles get used to working (producing force) while they are moving. Here is where the big difference lies between traditional “static stretching” and a “dynamic warm-up”. Once you have “warmed up” your body through gradual exercise, you do not want to stand in place and essentially cool it down. Static stretches that are held for a long period of time may also interfere with your muscles’ ability to work effectively. Research has shown that a dynamic warm up helps to more effectively prepare the body for athletic participation.

Instead of performing static stretches, try some of these dynamic movements. Similar to the warm up activity, you should gradually progress the speed and intensity used for these exercises. The goal is that you are ready to jump into full-speed activity when you are finished with these exercises.

Walking knee to chest
Walking knee to opposite shoulder
Walking quad stretch
Walking hamstring stretch- one foot in front, sit back onto back leg and lean forward towards front foot, front knee straight and back knee bent, toes down to the ground
Walking calf stretch- same as the walking hamstring stretch expect pull toes/foot upward
Walking lunge/hip flexor stretch- walk out into a lunge, keep body upright,
Side to side lunge/groin stretch
Walking cross over/piriformis stretch
Walking lunge with rotation
Heel walks/Toe walks
Butt kicks
Hamstring kicks
Skipping
Carioca
Lateral shuffles

So next time you see athletes start performing “static” stretches before any physical activity, suggest to them that they should try out some new moves that might help prevent injury and may improve their performance!

The “why” of Dragonwing girlgear.

kickstart_bannerPeople often ask me why I am so passionate about sports and girls and I have a simple, important reason – we need this generation of girls, now more than ever, to reach their potential.  Sports participation at any level is one path to actualizing potential –it is established and proven – we don’t need to create a new program or study its benefits.  But social expectations and social media are getting in the way of girls.  When I realized “the underwear experience” could have an impact, I had an aha moment that I could do something about it.

Let’s take Maslow’s hierarchy of needs pyramid.  On one level of the pyramid is community or village – we all know and accept that it takes a village to grow a strong confident girl.  We are happier with friends, family, a team, a tribe.  Belonging is important.   Connections give life meaning (Brene Brown).  Sports provide a natural community.

The next level of the pyramid is self-esteem.  Sports build self-esteem in so many ways, such as setting and achieving goals, graciously winning, building resilience, pushing your comfort zone for what you think you can do and then exceeding it – just to name a few. For more on this, check out this TedEx talk by Alisa Herr.

Unfortunately, feelings about breast development are a top reason girls drop out of sports.  According to a recent study in the Journal of Adolescent Health, “three quarters of school-aged girls report breast-related concerns regarding exercise and sports.”   75%!!!  That’s just not acceptable.  Starting and normalizing conversation about body changes can improve this.  Sports programs frequently recommend protective gear for boys, like cups, or compression shorts, but there is no comparable list recommended for girls. At Dragonwing girlgear, we provide girls that list and more.

Having an excellent-fitting, high-performance sports top – whether it is a bra, cami or thermal tee-shirt, that is designed especially for the athletic girl’s figure, can eliminate worries about underwear malfunction.  Embarrassment about changing bodies can alleviate concerns about body image.  At Dragonwing, we strive to free up emotional energy– so girls can focus on their game – and everything else they want to achieve… because when girls are confident, the possibilities are endless.

 

 

 

Brand-New Resources Page

We have added a new Resources page to our sideline chatter blog! This resource page, entitled “Essentials for a Confident Girl Athlete” includes a growing list of tools that we at Dragonwing think are vital for the empowerment and success of female athletes and for the aid of their parents! Visit our resources page now and keep checking our blog for weekly posts as we add more essentials to our list.

5 Running Tips for Non-Runners

Since my mother is such a powerful and voracious runner, I’m often asked “do you run?” The inquiry always puzzles me. Am I talented at running? No. Do I have what is traditionally considered a runner’s body type? Probably not.

Recently, though, I’ve been really inspired by body-positive campaigns that work to divorce physical activities from certain body types. For example, if you have a body and you’re wearing a swim suit, you’ve got a swim suit body! Likewise, if you have a body and you’re practicing yoga with it, that’s a yoga body. With those messages in mind, I’m challenging myself to answer “do you run?” with an enthusiastic “I try my best!”

 

dragonwing-girlgear-ambassador-celia-after-race-in-girls-sports-bra

Until high school, I was haunted by a memory of (barely) completing the mile during my first week of 6th grade PE class. (For anyone who was lucky enough not to be there, I threw up in the bathroom sink in front of half the girls in my grade after practically walking four dreadful laps on the track.)

With love and encouragement, I share 5 things that have helped me not only conquer my fears but also begin to enjoy running short distances:

  1. LISTEN TO GREAT MUSIC: Try songs with a beat similar to your pace (Spotify even has a really cool app that matches songs to your running rhythm.) Some of my favorites are classic wedding after-party songs like “September” and “Dancing in the Moonlight.”
  2. EMBRACE THE CONNECTION BETWEEN YOUR BREATH AND MOVEMENT: During Ashtanga yoga practice, yogis breathe with Ujjayi pranayama or “victorious breath,” a method which facilitates effortless body movement. I recommend experimenting with different breathing patterns until you find one that works for you! In contrast to #1: try running silently sometimes. There is nothing more grounding than hearing your own exhales.
  3. WALK WHEN YOU NEED TO: Challenge yourself, but listening to your body is important for your safety. Better to protect yourself for a future run than to over-exert!
  4. SET GOALS AND CELEBRATE ACCOMPLISHMENTS, EVEN LITTLE ONES: Whenever I’ve had to do something difficult in my life, from studying for the SAT to puffing through another mile, I’ve made a habit of promising myself a sushi dinner alone. Treat yourself.
  5. RUN FOR YOU: This last tip is a big one. Don’t compare yourself to your friend who is a UNC field hockey recruit, to your Super-Mom, or to famous athlete Shalane Flanagan. It’s great to set an intention for your work out or to dedicate a run to someone who needs it or to a great cause. Ultimately, though, the most rewarding thing about running is that, unlike most other sports, the only thing you need to run is you.

By putting one foot in front of the other and working up a sweat, you’re honoring your body and all the wonderful things it’s capable of doing, so run for yourself.

4 Tips Every Young Athlete Should Know for Staying Hydrated

After a long, cold winter just about everywhere in the US, what a relief it is to have warmer weather and longer days. Practices and games that occur during the heat of the day can bring the risk of dehydration, especially for young athletes.

Staying hydrated can help athletes feel and play their best. The U.S. Soccer Federation uses the acronym GOAL for its recommendations for youth athletes, parents, and coaches.

Get acclimated: Young athletes especially need to give their bodies time to adjust to higher, more humid temperatures. Wearing shorts, tops, and sports bras made of moisture-wicking fabric (not cotton) helps your body cool itself.

On-schedule drinking: Don’t wait until you feel thirsty. Increase how much you drink throughout the day, every day. Develop the habit of drinking a glass of water before you go to bed or when you get up in the morning. And be sure to drink before practice or a game, too.

Always bring a drink to practices and games. Stay away from caffeinated, so-called “energy” drinks that can cause health problems, especially in young people. To replace electrolytes after you finish playing, try chocolate milk, V-8 juice, or 100% fruit juice, which contains more carbohydrates, potassium, and nutrients than a sports drink

Learn the signs of dehydration: dizziness, nausea, chills, and unusual fatigue. If you experience any of these, stop playing, move to a cooler location, drink fluids, and – most importantly – notify a coach, parent, or other adult.

What you wear can help keep you cool, too. Dragonwing girlgear is made from fabric that wicks moisture so your body stays cooler. Check out our new Mesh Racer Sports Bra and Un-Dee Light Compression Shorts.

Are Sport Drinks Really Good For You?

In part 2 of our feature of nutritionist Kenlyn Young, the topic of healthy sports drinks is brought into the discussion. Is just water sufficient for an athlete? What about sports drinks? Below, our featured blogger answers some of your most pressing questions about sports drinks.

“Staying hydrated is a critical component of exercise. Drinking 2-3 glasses of water several hours before exercise is a must. And of course, during as well. Thinking of grabbing a sports drink? Think again. For most people participating in a sporting activity, drinking water is absolutely adequate. Sports drinks do provide sodium, the electrolye that is lost during exercise, however along with the sodium comes sugar, artificial colors, and brominated vegetable oil, a known harmful product. Most individuals have more than enough sodium in their diets to compensate for exercise. However, if one feels the need to replenish electrolytes after exercise a much better choice than a sports drink is V-8, chocolate milk, or 100% fruit juice. Fruit juice contains more carbohydrate, potassium, and nutrients than a sports drink.”

-Kenlyn Young

Snack on this: A nutritionist’s perspective

As a practicing dietician in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Kenlyn Young has a lot of advice for athletes who depend on good nutritional practices for optimal performance. Snacking is an integral part of an athlete’s diet, if done right. Here is some advice from Young for best snacking habits for an athlete.
“The goal of eating pre-exercise is to ensure the body has adequate energy for best performance and also to ensure that blood sugar levels don’t fall causing weakness, dizziness, or fatigue. Carbohydrates are the body’s main fuel source and provide quick energy for our muscles. Great snacks to serve this purpose include 100% fruit juice, a piece of fruit (best choices bananas, fresh pineapple or dried apricots), pretzels, popcorn, or a granola bar. Avoid snacks high in processed sugar, fat, and protein for your pre-exercise snack. The no-no snacks include chips, cookies, donuts, etc.
After exercise, it is important to replenish and repair our muscles. The best snack for post-exercise contains both a carbohydrate and a protein. Great choices include cheese and crackers, apple with peanut butter, yogurt with granola, carrots with hummus, almonds and raisins, even chocolate milk.”
-Kenlyn Young

Looking for a New Sport? Try Rock Climbing!

Hey Girlz 2 Women!

I wanted to share a bit about a different sport- ROCK CLIMBING!  If you’ve never tried it before, it is a blast.  I know many people who have tried other sports and they feel awkward, unfit or uncomfortable for any number of reasons, but then they found climbing.  Rock climbing is a whole different world that helps you explore your inner self, test your limits, learn about your body and feel great in the process.

I’m 42 (old in girls years) and only started climbing when I was 34, much later than most people.  But in that time, I have found a better sense of self, learned not to second-guess myself so much, met so many wonderful people in the climbing community, and explored beautiful places around the country where I’ve climbed for days at a time.

Triangle Rock Club is a climbing gym in Morrisville, NC where I now teach climbing.  One of the classes I teach is called Women on the Wall, which is focused on general climbing techniques, and a brief history of female climbers and exploration of the benefits we have as women in the climbing world.The class is an empowering atmosphere in which to learn the basics.  If you are interested in exploring something new, you can find more info at www.trianglerockclub.com.  Feel free to ask for me!

There is a wonderful blog online focused just on girls and rock-climbing.  You should check it out – you’ll actually find a little feature on little ol’ me – http://girlcrushrock.wordpress.com/2012/12/27/sarah-wolfe-you-rock/ .

Rock on, girlfriends!

-Sarah Wolfe, Rock Climbing Instructor at Triangle Rock Club