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.

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

SOCCER IS HERE!!!!

It’s finally soccer season!! I can’t believe it’s here—my senior year of soccer. It’s crazy to believe that at the end of this season, I will be done with high school. Senior night will be for me.  It’s my last year in the CA jersey. Whaat.

The last time I touched a soccer ball was 10 months ago, on our last game of last season. I had no idea how good or bad I would be getting back into it. For the first 20 minutes of our first practice back, the ball definitely felt foreign, but I’ll blame it on being indoors due to the snow, not my 10 soccer-less months.

When I finally got adjusted, I remembered how much I love soccer. And competing. I had so much freakin energy and I was so ready to play 90 minutes against our biggest rivals.

We’ve got big expectations for this year. I think our team is pretty stacked, and I personally believe a state championship is in our future. We’ll see how it goes!

Amazing Woman, Amazing Messages

In the past few months, I’ve been able to work with and be exposed to some amazing women. As part of my leadership class, I had the opportunity to interview the head of a local independent school. She was the first woman leader at the school! She also played collegiate level volleyball and is now a coach. I wanted to get her take on all things: from her story, to leadership, to some advice for girls and women.

A few quotes from our conversation that stood out to me were:

1. “Face the beast. And then conquer it. I would like to see more girls do that. These days, find whatever that subject is that’s hard, don’t run from it, face it and conquer it. You’re more equipped than you think you are.”

My interviewee was talking specifically about how she almost failed her college Spanish class, but, this lesson is applicable to everybody. Whether it’s a teacher, a school subject, a coach, a tough sports play, a boss, anything; rise up and fight through it. Women, and people in general, wouldn’t be where they are today if they ran from their challenges.

2. “I think everyone should have a little butterflies. Butterflies are normal. And embrace the butterflies.”

Don’t be afraid to be afraid. Harness your fear and run with it. Get excited about having butterflies, and use them to do and play your best. (You can also use Dragonwing to help you feel more confident about your sports-related butterflies!!)

3. “I shouldn’t have to fight to be non-girly. I’m a girl. Get over it. I’m proud of being a girl.”

She said it all right here. No caption needed. Own it girls.

This woman is doing amazing things and had a lot of great things to say about women. We need to keep women like her around! As this month is Breast Cancer Awareness month, women’s strength is highlighted more than ever. Dragon Wing is supporting funding for Breast Cancer Research,  by selling these bras! Take a look and help a great cause!

Play Wedgie-Free & Without Distraction

Monica watched her 10-year old granddaughter on the softball field as she adjusted her uniform again and again, tugging at the bulky compression shorts that were bunching up under her uniform. The girl glanced around self-consciously each time to see if anyone noticed.

“She was totally distracted by those shorts that just didn’t fit properly,” Monica told us a couple of weeks after buying a pair of our Un-Dee Light Compression Shorts. Since she started wearing Dragonwing’s spandex shorts under her softball pants, Monica’s granddaughter “hasn’t picked a wedgie!”

Review: girls spandex compression shorts

That’s our goal: empower girls to play — and be — their best without being distracted by sports apparel that doesn’t fit properly.

Monica’s granddaughter loves the way her compression shorts fit: stretchy enough to move with her but not bulky like her old shorts from a big-box store. And the mesh side panels and moisture-wicking fabric meant she stayed cool under her uniform.

Now whenever they see another softball player tugging at her pants and picking at a wedgie, Monica and her granddaughter say, “That girl needs Dragonwing!”

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.

January 24: Happy Birthday, Mary Lou Retton!

Happy birthday to Italian-American Mary Lou Retton, the first female gymnast from outside of Eastern Europe to win an Olympic gold medal in the all-around event (1984 Olympics). Besides four other Olympic medals- two silver and two bronze- Retton is also a two-time American Cup winner and a 1997 International Gymnastics Hall of Fame inductee.