Sporting organisations develop policies in order to communicate appropriate behaviour, protect the rights of members and visitors and set expectations around standards of behaviour. To ensure your policies include the needs of females, engage with a broad cross-section of individuals involved in your sport. While any policy can impact on the ability for females to participate fully in your sport, there are some specific examples that are crucial to consider, such as uniforms and pregnancy.
How to develop your policy
Vicsport recommends sport clubs and associations take the following steps through the development of their guidelines and policies. Each is explored in more detail further in this document:
1. Consult widely
2. Write the policy
3. Circulate the draft policy for feedback
4. Finalise and approve the policy
5. Communicate the policy
6. Set a date for review
A clear and well-planned process will ensure that your organisation develops a thorough policy that contributes to a strong and vibrant culture at your organisation.
Policy Development Step 1: Consult widely
Engage with a broad cross-section of individuals involved in your organisation. This may include committee members, volunteers, players, and parents. It may also include your local council and respective State Sport Association. Consultation provides an opportunity for people involved in your club to become aware of the issues you are trying to address. An additional benefit of consultation is increased ownership of the policy as members feel they have contributed to positive change in the club. For policies relating to children (such as child safety and protection), it is important to also involve members aged under 18 in the consultation process.
Step 2: Write the policy
When writing a policy, you should consider:
- The impact or change you want to achieve (for example, a flexible uniform policy may aim to increase participation by adolescent girls).
- The input and feedback you received during step 1.
- How this policy may link with any policies in place or being developed by your State Sporting Association.Are the key areas of the policy consistent with any existing policies? You may consider using existing policies as a template for the new policy draft.
Step 3: Circulate the draft policy for feedback
When you have finalised the policy, circulate a copy to members for feedback. Where possible, seek feedback from your State Sporting Association. You could also consider approaching other local sport clubs, or clubs in your league or association, to find out if they have similar policies in place. Usually, sporting organisations are willing to share resources.
Step 4: Finalise and approve the policy
Collate the feedback gained through the review process and update your policy draft. Once your policy has been finalised, you will need to identify who is required to approve it (committee or members). This should be outlined in your club’s constitution. Any approval that occurs at committee or member meetings should be minuted and recorded for future reference.
Step 5: Communicate the Policy
Once approved, communicate your new policy throughout your club on an ongoing basis. You may consider doing this through:
- Club website
- Social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Sport/Team Apps).
- Newsletters (hard copy and emailed).
- Direct emails to your members.
- Displaying throughout clubrooms.
Step 6: Set a Date for Review
Once your policy is finalised and communicated to your members, set a date for the policy to be reviewed every two years and ensure it is updated accordingly.
Each pregnancy and each sport is different, so sport clubs should seek advice from their State Sporting Association regarding pregnancy. There is an online scenario provided by Play by the Rules which will help you learn about the rights and responsibilities of players, coaches and administrators in relation to pregnancy and sport. You can also refer to these Sports Medicine Australia fact sheets.
In order to encourage women and girls of all ages to participate in sport and physical activity, flexibility with uniform requirements is recommended. Uniform requirements not only differ depending on the sport, but also the level of competition. For example, leagues and associations often have specific rules about uniforms which clubs are required to adhere to; while in less competitive or social sporting environments, clubs may be open to more relaxed uniform requirements. This document provides information to assist your club to develop guidelines or policies that allow women and girls to wear appropriate and comfortable uniforms during sport activities. The key message is that your approach should provide flexibility, be focused on the needs of the individual participating, and allow for greater participation by women and girls in your club.
- Adolescent Girls
It is recognised that wearing short, revealing uniforms during puberty may deter some girls from continuing in sport or physical activity. There are many reasons for this, but central to the issue is a girl’s self-confidence and sense of place in the world. If a girl is not confident about her physical appearance, and does not feel comfortable in the uniform, she is unlikely to want to continue to play sport. This also applies to women of all ages.
- Culturally Diverse Backgrounds
In some cultures, women and girls’ dress codes are modest (or less revealing). While every sport has a different uniform style, there has been a trend towards more ‘revealing’ uniforms, which can be a barrier to entry. Uniforms should allow for appropriate movement and encourage participation. A flexible uniform policy allows appropriate dress codes for multiple cultural and religious beliefs.
Steps to take
Consider the following approach when developing guidelines or policies about flexible uniforms at your club:
- Recognise that in circumstances where religious and cultural beliefs conflict with the standard dress code, that modification to the standard uniform will be accommodated where possible (e.g. where safety and other playing requirements can be met).
- In addition, wherever possible consider flexibility in uniforms to encourage the participation of women and girls. This may include, but is not restricted to:
- less restrictive, body hugging attire
- the wearing of traditional head scarf
- the wearing of leggings or tracksuits to cover legs
- the wearing of long sleeve top to cover arms