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.

Kathrine Switzer: First Woman to Enter the Boston Marathon

For the Dragonwing team, this video makes us emotional – especially when Jock Semple tries to pull her out. Kathrine’s quote “all of a sudden this was very important … nobody believes I can do this.. and if I don’t finish, people will think all women can’t.” she finished in 4 hrs and 20 min. KV Switzer (and whoever wears #261 -how lucky are you!)

You can watch the video here.

Kathrine Switzer: First Woman to Enter the Boston Marathon

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)

Concussions important issue for girl athletes-updated info here

There have been many articles and efforts to improve safety on the soccer field for women and girls.  As an update to our posts of six years ago, I provide new information on prevention and training alternatives from Cindy Parlow Cone and Excelle.com

Our original articles are here:

Don’t be fooled by common misconceptions about concussions.

A great article on concussions from Taylor Twellman.

Recovering from a Climbing Concussion

and new information can be found here:

Pro players speak out about the ‘absurdity’ of the concussion protocol in women’s soccer

Check out these excellent video on the what Cindy Parlow Cone’s experience learning to head the ball at 18 -and still being a World Cup Champ and Olympian!

http://bit.ly/2t0FV3P

http://bit.ly/2u5o9MP

 

Last Firsts from a Soccer Mom.

It is that time of year for parents of high school seniors when we’re enjoying the last -firsts of many club and high school events.  Last first soccer game of the year, last first day of the last semester, last club night.   Looking back at all the things I’ve learned, I’ve decided (rather than wallow),  I’d share a few of the most useful lessons.  From the importance of chocolate milk to the recruiting process.  Make sure to catch next few blogs.  I’d love to hear your stories and tips too!

Here’s to team Glow Angel -where it all started, and to the coaches, parents and friends I’ve made on the fields.

xo

MaryAnne

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.

 

 

 

Courage, as defined by my fortune cookie

When we’re full with Kung Pao chicken, sweet and sour chicken, rice, dumplings and lo mein, we each open a fortune cookie. We have a belief in our household that fortunes don’t necessarily belong to the opener of the cookie, just somebody at the table. So once we’ve all read the fortunes aloud, it’s an unspoken tradition that we decide who gets which fortune. Tonight, this was mine, and it was applicable in two ways:

Courage is the mastery of fear–not the absence of fear.

1. After dinner, I was scrolling through Twitter and saw that a former teammate of mine had just committed to Florida State to play soccer. So, my dad asked me if I was still okay with my decision to not play soccer in college and to quit. Looking back on the decision, there were two sides to me.

The first and more dominant side was the one at complete peace with the situation. During a tournament in Colorado, I had just scored my dream goal and as I came off the field, I no longer envisioned myself playing in the upcoming season. It was also exciting to think of my weekends not being filled with 10 hour bus rides and Jason’s Deli box lunches.

The other half of me was freaking out.  I had been playing soccer for as long as I could remember. I didn’t know life without it. Like I said, Freaking Out.What if I miss soccer in a month? What if my dream school calls me right now offering me a roster spot? What will my teammates think? How am I going to tell my coach? Even though I knew this was what I wanted, it was still so hard. And I was so emotional. On the phone call with my coach, my tears got so bad that I had to secretly put myself on mute so I could blow my nose without him hearing. Through the blurry eyes and raspy voice, I made it through. There are still moments where I want nothing more than to train with my favorite coach and ex-teammates, but overall I’m very happy with my decision. I faced my fear of the repercussions of quitting, and so far I haven’t looked back.

2. My friend just texted me, “a fattie spider crawled in my bed and I can’t find it!!” This right there is courage. HE STARTED LOOKING FOR THE SPIDER IN HIS BED.
I can make tough, life-changing decisions, but if I were in his situation, I would have been out of that room so fast and would have been sleeping on the couch for a week. I don’t know where he landed with the spider situation, and he hasn’t responded for a few minutes. For all I know he’s convulsing on his floor with a spider bite in his arm. But at least he looked. And I think that’s what courage is about.

 

 

 

 

Beating Back to School

Going back to school. The best and worst time of the year. The first week is all fun and games, as we meet new teachers and catch up with friends we haven’t seen all summer.  For the first week, stress levels aren’t too high yet as we are eased into new routines. It’s also nice to have something to do all day. And I’m sure my mom is happy to have me out of the house. But, it’s also the worst time of the year. There’s fear for the next 180 days and the stack of books that slowly gets higher. Teachers begin introducing large projects and essays and tests that are coming up in the next month and day by day the fun goes away.

As I’m going through my 12th first week of school, I seem to be numb to ‘the pain’ this time. The glory and excitement that comes along with being a senior has carried me through the first three days. The worst part so far has been that I’ve needed a nap every single day after school, so I think it could be worse.

I’ve found a few things that have helped me:

1. Knowing just because summer is over, doesn’t mean fun is over. There are still weekends that, as long as I save time for homework, can be spent with friends. The weather’s still nice, the pool is still open, and the beach is only two hours away!

2. Cheesy as it is, a positive attitudes really makes a difference. Homework is inevitable…groaning each time an assignment is given only makes it worse.

3. Napping! It’s not just for 1st graders.

4. BACK TO SCHOOL SHOPPING!! Homework is way more fun when I get to put it in my new folder and write on it with 6 different colored pens.

I’m sure in about a month I’ll look back on this post, with a to-do list to my eyeballs, wondering what I was thinking and how I could possibly have any positive attitude towards school, but for now, it’s not so bad. To everybody starting back in these next few weeks, good luck and have fun!

First things first…

Hi, I’m Emma. I currently live in North Carolina, and I have spent most of my childhood here. When I’m not at school, I’m exercising, working, socializing with friends or family, watching Netflix , eating, or sleeping. And I think I love all of those things equally.

I’m a senior in high school and am headed into my 7th year there. I prefer math and science, although the other classes aren’t too bad. I’ve also taken French for 6 years, and while I’m definitely not fluent, I’d like to think I’m close. I also spend a good portion of my time working for one of our school’s volunteer organizations, Beta Club. This coming year, I’m excited to be the president!

As for sports, I play soccer for my high school varsity team. I played competitive club soccer for 7 years, and we had the opportunity to travel all over the country. I finally decided to stop playing in the summer of 2013. I loved it but wanted to focus on other things.

Without as much of my time strictly dedicated to soccer, I love to dabble in lots of other forms of exercise including hot yoga, group workout classes, swimming, biking, hiking and sometimes, although rarely, running.

In my spare time, when I’m not working on my homework, or playing sports, I am a hostess at a local restaurant. I’ve been there about a year and love the opportunity to constantly interact with lots of different types of people of all ages.

I started working with DragonWing in the summer of 2014. I’m very excited to be working with this company. I can’t wait to watch it grow and hope to contribute to that!