By Randy Vogt, Director of Public Relations, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
March 18, 2021-Sarah Dwyer-Shick, the Beacon resident who is a longtime coach in both the East Hudson Youth Soccer League (EHYSL) and Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA), founded the Sports Bra Project in 2018 and it was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit in February 2020. The Sports Bra Project, supporting access and athletes in all sports, has its roots in Sarah's experiences working in soccer in the US and abroad.
Local coach Eric Cielenou giving a donation to Sports Bra Project founder Sarah Dwyer-Shick
Sarah said that ”having the opportunity to travel and experience soccer in different communities, it became clear that many girls and women are still faced with obstacles to sports participation. Cultural expectations, financial constraints and logistical concerns all play a role.”
This was hit home when first in Africa, where Sarah discovered that the small collection of sports bras she'd brought as gifts for young soccer players in rural Namibia were also eagerly accepted by older players living near the capital city, Windhoek. Many members of the Namibian National Women's Soccer Team did not have easy access to something as simple and essential as a sports bra. It was as result of this that the Sports Bra Project was born.
”While the obstacles in New York City look different from those in Africa or rural communities, the need for a sports bra is a universal one. To have the lack of this basic piece of equipment be another potential barrier to sports participation struck me as ridiculous, and something that could be addressed,” Sarah explained, ”At a practical level, sports bras provide more support and coverage than other bras and are needed once a girl begins to go through puberty. Too many girls leave sports between the ages of 11 and 14 so normalizing their experiences and needs are steps to addressing this.”
Through a growing network of coaches and players who collect and distribute new sports bras in the United States and throughout the world, the Sports Bra Project ensures that the equipment goes to its intended location. To date, more than 50 teams and organizations have hosted sports bra drives. Within the US, the sports bras are usually shipped, when going to international non-profit organizations they are often hand-delivered by individuals and organizations. 4,500 have been distributed since the non-profit’s founding in 2018 with plans to double that number this year.
Sporting Omaha FC youth soccer players from Nebraska with their donations
The Sports Bra Project's mission is threefold:
• Meeting a need and addressing a physical barrier to sports participation.
• Normalizing the conversation of women in sports, their needs and experiences.
• Providing an opportunity for athletes to engage with their community and support other aspiring athletes by hosting a drive that they can take a leadership role in.
The Sports Bra Project donors are often able to attach a personal message to the bra. In this way, the girl or woman who receives it knows that she is not just receiving the bra from an organization but from another female athlete who can relate to her on a personal level.
A sports bra in Haiti
With approximately 100,000 youth soccer players––both boys and girls––and more than 25,000 volunteers, the non-profit Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) stretches from Montauk Point, Long Island to the Canadian border. Members are affiliated with nine leagues throughout the association, which covers the entire state of New York east of Route 81. ENYYSA exists to promote and enhance the game of soccer for children and teenagers between the ages of 5 and 19 years old, and to encourage the healthy development of youth players, coaches, referees and administrators. All levels of soccer are offered––from intramural, travel team and premier players as well as Children With Special Needs. No child who wants to play soccer is turned away. ENYYSA is a proud member of the United States Soccer Federation and United States Youth Soccer. For more information, please log on to https://www.enysoccer.com/