Girls tennis progresses against sexist uniforms

Jillian Sinder, Staff Writer

When Kendall Fillat (12) walks onto the field, ready to play a game of field hockey, there’s one thing she says is stopping her from playing to her full potential: her uniform. 

Fillat is a defender on the field hockey team, a position that demands a lot of running. She often finds herself making large strides — to succeed at her sport, she needs to be able to move unhampered. But for her uniform, she is required to wear a skirt. 

“We all hate our skirts because we have to wear shorts under them and they’re not connected so they ride up a lot,” Fillat said. “We constantly are pulling them down and have to worry about them.” 

Sport uniforms are supposed to enhance players’ abilities, but because the field hockey team’s skirts are not fit for playing, Fillat said she believes that they are a disadvantage. 

“I think that if we had shorts, we would be able to focus on playing way more,” Fillat said. “Always in the game, people are trying to pull their skirts down and it’s just uncomfortable.” 

Even though the majority of the team dislikes their uniforms, Fillat says that a limited team budget makes it hard for them to buy new ones. 

“In field hockey, we don’t [get to pick our uniforms] but that comes down to the fact that we don’t get new uniforms very often,” Fillat said. “If we were to get new uniforms, we should get shorts or even a skirt, where your shorts are connected.”

According to Fillat, because field hockey is a sport that is known for its players wearing skirts, she believes that this could be a potential problem when recruiting new members. 

“I do know that it turns some people away from field hockey, like if they don’t want to play because they have to wear a skirt,” Fillat said. “It also makes it seem like boys can’t play field hockey, even though for field hockey, both genders can play.”

Annabelle Wang (11), captain of girls varsity tennis, made an effort to improve past tennis attire by taking initiative to select new uniforms. 

“We were lucky enough that we were able to choose our own uniforms and we had a lot of freedom with that,” Wang said. “So it was kind of through discussion among the captains, where we decided what our uniforms would be and what best fit our budget.”

Additionally, to make certain that all members felt comfortable in the uniform, Wang asked for the team’s input when choosing. 

“We also sent out a vote in a Google Form to our whole team, and they were able to fill that out and choose preferences,” Wang said. “We’re lucky that our team and our coach especially is super open-minded about what we choose [for] a uniform.”

Tennis coach Renee Malcuit explained that she wanted her athletes to have freedom when choosing their uniforms in order to make sure that they play to their best ability.

“Traditional has always been skirts but they feel more comfortable in shorts,” Malcuit said. “If they’re not comfortable out there then they’re not going to play as well.”

This year, the tennis team wears an Adidas tank top and Lululemon shorts, but it hasn’t always been this way. 

“We did have to wear skirts at one point,” Wang said. “Two years ago, one of our previous captains had chosen skirts and we did have some issues with the wind blowing up the skirts. They also didn’t come with shorts underneath.”

Similar to Fillat’s situation, the skirts in past years were a disadvantage to gameplay. Disregarding how they looked, Wang believes that the problem was their functionality. 

“In previous years, I don’t think that some of the uniforms were as successful,” Wang said. “For skirts in the wind, it took away from our playing because we were always worried about pushing down the skirt or tucking in the hem.”

Due to their Adidas sponsorship, the tennis team tries to find uniforms within the brand’s catalog. However, the catalog’s limited options make it difficult to find uniforms. 

“We were looking at the Adidas uniform catalog and we were having a hard time finding a pair of shorts that would be suitable for tennis,” Wang said. “We keep tennis balls in our shorts so they need to either have pockets or they need to be tight enough where you can slip a ball under the hem.”

According to Wang, she’s found that there is a disparity in the options for female sportswear compared to that of men’s, especially when looking for shorts with pockets. 

“One thing that I’ve noticed is that in a lot of girls’ uniforms, it’s really rare to find them with pockets, especially pockets suitable for tennis balls,” Wang said. “I know that it’s a given that boys’ athletic shorts come with pockets so that’s not something they have to worry about. There aren’t very many options for Adidas girls tennis. There’s usually just one style of tank top, one style of skirt, and one style of dress. That’s really all we’ve got.”

In tennis, it’s common to see girls wearing skirts; however, the girls tennis team goes against this tradition by wearing shorts. 

“You can see it a lot in tennis that it’s a given that the girls wear a tank top and a skirt and the boys wear a t-shirt and shorts,” Wang said. “It’s something tennis is known for.”

Over the years, the tradition of wearing tennis skirts has widened to allow for more options. This allows for more personal expression and individual choice. 

“When you think of tennis, people are usually just wearing tennis skirts, but I think that it has broadened to many different things,” Malcuit said. “I’ve seen tights, and a lot of people wear shorts or spandex. They’re just showing who they are in what they wear.”

Wang said that by choosing shorts for the tennis team, she is fighting against the sexist origins of female athletes wearing skirts and encouraging positive change. 

“The tradition of wearing a tennis skirt for female players was based off sexualization of female athletes,” Wang said. “Now, it’s more usual for girls to wear shorts especially when they’re playing sports.”

Overall, Wang is happy with the decision that she made for the team uniform and hopes that her teammates feel the same, even though the shorts are not traditional. 

“I think that our uniform is empowering because a lot of players on our team like wearing it,” Wang said. “I know that some people had some reservations about it in the beginning of the season, but from the feedback that I’ve heard so far, people have grown to really like it, which makes me happy because I’m glad that it’s something that we made the right choice on.”