‘It makes a huge difference’: How football equipment designed especially for women is changing the game
Like almost all female athletes in Australia, Melissa Maizels has learned to play the sport she loves using equipment that was not designed for her.
- For female athletes, it is a common theme that they have had to play and train with equipment designed for men.
- Even Playing Field is an Australian distributor of sportswear and sports equipment specially designed for the female body
- Melbourne Victory goalkeeper Melissa Maizels says her women-specific gloves changed her game
The Melbourne goalkeeper Victory started playing football at the age of nine, but it wasn’t until she was 18 that she put on her first pair of gloves.
She remembers them well: they were two sizes too tall – the only pair she could find at the store – and she must have pulled them so tight around her wrists that the excess strap snapped when she moved. .
It wasn’t until 2018, seven years after signing his first W-League contract, that Maizels received a pair of goalkeeper gloves designed specifically for women’s hands.
“Like any other person, I wore every glove I could get; everything I could get the cheapest, and gloves didn’t come cheap,” Maizels told ABC.
“You can probably get away with wearing one pair of boots for a full season, but a pair of gloves only lasts about six weeks – sometimes only three weeks, given our training volume – so I was spending a lot. money in gloves. .
“I was just wearing the standard gloves; they fit as well as they could, but at the end of the day we’re built a little differently from men.
The test gloves were supplied by an American company called Keep it, whose goalie gloves are tailor-made to fit the average female hand.
Unlike the male hand, which is the universal standard for most gloves, female hands tend to be narrower in the palm, thinner around the wrists, and with fingers of different spaces and lengths.
“Any goalie will tell you that the equipment you use – the pair of gloves you use – makes a huge difference in the way you play,” said Maizels.
“Having the confidence to know that you can potentially catch a shot or a cross that you might otherwise need to parry or repel is a key thing that I noticed from the start.”
Maizels’ experience in using sports equipment designed for male bodies is extremely common among female athletes. In fact, it’s not even exclusive to sport.
As writer and activist Caroline Criado Perez puts it in her book Invisible Women: “Designers may think they make products for everyone, but in reality, they make them primarily for men.
“The impact can be relatively minor – for example, struggling to reach a shelf above a male size standard. Irritating, sure. But not fatal.
“It’s not like crashing into a car that doesn’t take women’s body measurements into account. Not like being stabbed because your police bulletproof vest doesn’t fit you properly. .
“For these women, the consequences of living in a world built around male data can be deadly.”
Sport, of course, is not (always) a life threatening occupation. But women’s performance and participation can be directly affected by the equipment and clothing offered.
A recent study from Victoria University, for example, found that uniform design played a major role in teenage girls’ participation in school sports.
It’s the wider disparity between clothing and sportswear for men and women that Canberra-based businesswoman Helen Ritchie wants to address.
Ritchie got the idea for his business Level playing field after spotting a pair of Maizels Keepher gloves at a 2018 W-League game. She bought a pair online for her daughter, Georgia, who hasn’t worn them since.
Even Playing Field quickly expanded to include other sports equipment designed for female bodies such as Ida football Zena Sports padded protective boots and clothing for women who practice contact sports.
“My passion is to get things that are suitable for girls and women,” Ritchie told the ABC.
“I’m only focusing on the girls’ clubs right now and I love it; I can go to their practices, take the boots, take the gloves, take the Zenas, and the girls can try them all, see how they are.
“They love it; they love to have something that is specifically for their body, not just a ‘pink and shrink’ version.
“I don’t want her to be put off at 14 or 15 because she feels uncomfortable; these girls are going through puberty, you want to keep them in sports, so you give them stuff that’s wrong. not make them feel themselves -conscious. “
Ritchie plans to expand Even Playing Field’s equipment offering to include other sports such as cricket, AFL, rugby league and rugby union, as well as equipment for fans of competitions. women from all over the world that major Australian retailers do not stock.
“At the club level, all first year cricketers wear male uniforms,” she said. “One of the clubs I approached, their wives obviously want to wear clothes that fit them, but they’re under contract.
“Nike produces women’s jerseys; look at the uproar when they brought out the Matildas kit for the Women’s World Cup. They can do it, it’s just that they make the business decision not to do it, and I don’t think so. not that clubs should have to have it contracted with them if they can’t provide it for both genders. “
As women’s sport continues to gain popularity and visibility in Australia, the demand for equipment and equipment specifically designed for the female body will also increase.
By providing athletes with what they need to reach their full potential, retention rates of women in sport will increase and the industry itself will continue to thrive.
“At the end of the day, if there is a demand for something, if enough women feel like they can speak out and say, ‘We want this, we want to see something in this space’, someone is going to come out and try to meet those needs, ”Maizels said.
“Come to think of it, what if we offered men a ladies fit kit? What would they think of that? Our bodies are built differently. You go to any clothing store and there is a men’s section and a section for men. woman, so why not in Football?