Friday, May 27, 2022

Anna Toman: We must have a voice when it comes to sports kit, feel and sizes

Majority of the GB women's quad said that their match confidence and performance would improve with better quality of sports clothing

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Anna Toman
Anna Toman
Anna plays for England and Great Britain women and Dutch side SCHC.

Our columnist ponders how many talented players have been lost to hockey at a young age due to a lack of comfortable sports kit available

Last year, I started looking into an on-pitch requirement which as far as I know had previously been kept at arm’s length from athletes in terms of insight – our playing kit. I don’t think GB or England Hockey athletes have ever been involved in talks with our apparel suppliers over the feel, sizes and material.

We began by redesigning the kit and colours, but didn’t have much to work off, just the adidas website, and we first wanted to differentiate the England and GB kit where the colours were too similar.

This year, I asked team-mate Tess Howard to join me. After all, her dissertation had focused on how girls’ experiences in sport were affected by the kit they were wearing and the limited options available to them. In an eye-opening survey of more than 400 women, Tess found that over 75 per cent saw school girls drop out of sport due to uniform and body image concerns.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. A great article, it would be great to have a follow up to this if it leads to any improvements. My club is in the process of choosing a new kit, the number one issue with the current kit is dissatisfaction with the skorts.

    Why manufacturers are unable to get such a fundamental piece of kit right is a big problem. I have to assume that the issue stems from men designing kit that is worn by women.

    If one of the biggest sorts brands in the world cannot get it right for an international team then we have a systemic failing.

    • Depends where you are based but Paul at Sportology in Boldmere Sutton Coldfield be very helpful with information as he supplies many Clubs with Kit.

  2. The problem with bigger companies is bound to be an economy of scale and ‘one size fits all’ (sorry for the pun). Perhaps there are smaller brands who are closer to their market audience who could step in……? Y1 are progressive in this way; the other interesting ‘new’ player is Castore who, but a year ago, emerged as kit providers for W Indies cricket, and now have the England Cricket contract. Or are they now too big a company to offer the personalised kit design that the womens’ (and mens’) hockey programmes deserve?

  3. Many, MANY moons ago, when I was a super-fit, teenage sporty sort with not a bit of podge, I was still *big* – a size 14-16. It was difficult enough then to get a ‘proper’ hockey skirt in my size, but the thought of being that girl in 2022, being poured/squished into a hockey dress/skort combo is mildly horrifying! These days, when sports clothing is tighter, stretchier and more revealing and about image than ever, girls over anything more than a size 12 are being outcast more than ever. So yes, feeling comfortable is absolutely essential!

    • Although the argument seems to be pitched at the super-athlete level there are big implications at grass roots level too. Even as a pretty fit 30-something I never felt comfortable in the kit, but it was part of the club badge. The skirts were unflatteringly pleated, the tops had no female element whatsoever and the socks were twice as long as my feet. Nonetheless I enjoyed games and festivals and, let’s face it, no one was any better dressed. Sadly, 20 years on little has changed except to have stretchier fabric – which alone isn’t a perfect answer.
      Nowadays, few people can escape trial by media, and who wants to have any triumphal moment marred by an evergreen bad-kit photo? Locally, I thank heaven for the sympathetic photographers who scan their portfolio before uploading it, and for focussing on intent and passion in the game rather than beautiful faces and perfect bodies. But I can see why unflattering and impractical kit might put off would-be hockey aficionados of any age, when confidence is fragile.

  4. Back when I was involved in International hockey managing and coaching (as well as hockey retail) up to 2016, I know that Team GB made every effort to consult with athletes about playing kit for our Olympic Teams.

    Back then too, England & GB Hockey made every effort to liaise with kit sponsors to get sizing and material as good as it could be.

    One of the problems has always been that kit is mostly manufactured in the Far East and getting sizing right (and consistent) has always been a problem and a real headache in the Trade.

    For example, one batch of skorts from the same manufacturer would invariably be differently sized to the next batch.

    It seems that Anna and her team are now very much involved in design and material. My experience has been that when you think it’s sorted, it goes wrong again! This is a big problem for the Governing Bodies if they have paid in advance which they often have to do.

    Be patient and keep at it!

  5. I have a family of four girls. I play masters and club hockey they play county and local hockey. No kit siZing works for them or me. Adidas kit for masters sizing is poor as the classic one size fits all just doesnt work. I would happily offer my family who are all shapes, heights, busts and sizes for kit manufacturers to check out their sizing. Our club uses an industrial clothing company and that doesnt work either. I guarantee you no one brand or non brand will fit all but some are clearly worse than others. If the manufacturers are serious about sizing then take the offers for fitting and sampling up. Equally i call out the shoe manufacturers in this too. If runners can get running shoes to match their foot matters and width why doesnt hockey consider that important either and put time and research in too. Experienxe tells our family that some brands last better than others with major brands making it half a season over others. From experience Osaka have researched and got a product that is science backed and the difference is phenomenal. Just my thoughts.

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