My last collegiate soccer game was in November 2006 against Notre Dame in the NCAA tournament. Eleven years seems like a long time (and, it is), but my memories of playing college soccer are just as clear and vivid as they were then.
While watching college games this fall, I could not help but picture myself out on the field…dressed in uniform…crossing balls…high-fiving my teammates…acknowledging a great pass…and leading by example. But, there was definitely one thing I could not picture. And, unfortunately, it goes back to the body image and eating disorders epidemic occurring in society today.
Just as styles and trends in clothing come and go, so does fashion in sportswear for athletes. When I was in college, the “popular” look was oversized shorts rolled at the waist one to two times. But, the length of the shorts still were an appropriate couple inches up from the knees. The uniform top was large enough so that it didn’t adhere to our bodies, and the arms gave us an option of keeping the sleeves down to our elbows, or choosing to scrunch the material up in our bra strap if we got hot and uncomfortable. The style never appeared inappropriate, offensive, or distasteful.
So then when did the style in college soccer become so promiscuous? This ongoing battle of being a strong, healthy athlete on the field, and a skinny, attractive girl at a weekend party is clearly not only more present than ever, but there seems to be quite an overlap.
One argument is that less material makes for easier movement. And, I agree. But, I was able to move, hop, and jump comfortably with clothing that covered my body in a non seductive way. This style cannot be for that purpose when the shorts appear as daisy dukes, but with a moisture-wicking material and Nike sign.
I cannot even imagine the pressure these girls feel to stay current in the trends, to socially “fit-in,” and to look a certain way. At 5’1” tall with muscular thighs, my legs wouldn’t have been able to compete with this breed of tall, skinny, and lean athletes who are ‘big-time’ and respected, yet wearing skimpy uniforms.
This style sends the wrong message. It conveys the ongoing issues related to social pressures in female athletes—that they must have the strength to perform well, but, also have the feminine, sexy bodies for outside of their sport. It reinforces the focus on thinness in today’s culture.
At a time when a lot of work is being done to empower girls and give them more positive messaging, clothing still seems to be trailing behind. Nobody is addressing the fit of the clothes and the messages that sends to the girls. Not to mention, all the little girls out there who are watching and idolizing these athletes, aspiring to be just like them. Then, we wonder why dieting and body image issues are starting at younger and younger ages.
It is our responsibility as parents, caretakers, teachers, coaches, and leaders to counter the influences of peer pressure and the media, and educate these girls on the sexual and cultural messages they are conveying related to their values. It is important not to shame them, but to discuss the ramifications that come with dressing in certain ways. Sex sells. Therefore, we, more than ever, need to have a presence and be mindful to have values. Ultimately, this will help with body image, and decrease the number of eating disorders—which is higher than ever—making for a happier and healthier lifestyle.