Sarah O'Dwyer: White shorts on the way out

Sarah O'Dwyer: White shorts on the way out

Lidl ambassadors, from left, Síofra O'Shea of Kerry Aishling Moloney of Tipperary, Emma Duggan of Meath, Carla Rowe of Dublin, Shauna Howley of Mayo, Ally Cahill of Cavan and Nicola Ward of Galway at the launch of the 2023 Lidl Ladies National Football Leagues at Lidl Head Office, Tallaght, Dublin. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

MORE and more women’s teams are moving away from white shorts to alleviate the concerns of female athletes on their period.

The latest team to unveil a change of kit was Kerry’s ladies football team who have made the switch to black shorts from their usual white and gold.

The Kerry representative at the launch of the 2023 Ladies National Football Leagues, Síofra O’Shea, wore the shorts alongside representatives from a number of other counties – the majority of which were not in white shorts. In fact, just one of the other six county representatives were wearing white shorts.

They’re the latest team in a long line from across different sports that are moving away from white shorts in response to concerns raised by women athletes who are concerned and can be conscious about wearing light colours while on their period.

And, it’s not just inter-county ladies football teams who have changed their kit in recent times. There have been changes on the internationals tage.

The IRFU have also recently reportedly decided to switch away from their white shorts.

Speaking to the Irish Independent recently, the IRFU’s head of women’s performance and pathways, Gillian McDarby, said: “If it makes them (the team) feel that it’s not going to impact their performance but it’s actually going to add to it, well that’s a win-win for everybody.”

She did say that while in the odd instance, due to colour clashing with opposing teams, the Irish squad may be required to wear white shorts, but overall navy is preferred.

“I suppose the fear for women when they’re performing is if it’s that time of the month for them and is that actually going to impact their performance if they’re wearing white shorts? And it has happened,” she explained.

Manchester City women’s soccer team have also recently moved from white to burgundy shorts. A statement released by the club and Puma – the kit manufacturer – explained: “Puma and Manchester City take pride in working closely with our players to support them and create the best possible environment for them to feel comfortable and perform at their highest level.

“As a result of player feedback and the underlying topic of women wanting to move away from wearing white shorts while on their periods, we have decided to implement changes to the products we offer to our female players.

“Starting from the 2023/24 season, we will not be providing white shorts to our female athletes. We will always provide an alternative for our home, away and third kits to solve the issue highlighted by women across all sports.”

Last year, West Brom’s women’s team also changed their home kit shorts from white to navy to alleviate concerns from players surrounding their period. At the time, captain Hannah George said: “This change will help us to focus on our performance without added concerns or anxiety.”

Even Wimbledon have made the move towards allowing women to wear different coloured undershorts while competing in the competition this year, which has historically been notoriously strict with its dress code.

Late last year, Sally Bolton, chief executive of the All England Club said: “Women and girls competing at the championships will have the option of wearing coloured undershorts if they choose.

“It is our hope that this rule adjustment will help players focus purely on their performance by relieving a potential source of anxiety.”

A 2020 study of elite female rugby players in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that almost all of the 15 athletes examined perceived that menstrual symptoms impacted negatively on sporting performance.

One third of participants reported heavy menstrual bleeding. Along with physical symptoms, there were psychological symptoms noted also. These “manifested as worry, distraction, negative mood states, feeling tearful and emotional, reduced motivation and feelings of agitation”.

When something so simple as moving away from white or light-coloured shorts can help alleviate some of these issues for female athletes, all teams should be following suit.

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