I have for many years been aware of the challenges girls and women face trying to find sportswear and kit that hasn’t had the “shrink it and pink it” approach,
or the “just buy the XS size” comment made. International athletes around the globe have been wearing men’s kit in small sizes or garish pink for far
too long now, however this is starting to change.
The success of the Women’s Football and Rugby World Cups in the last two years have seen huge audiences and an appetite to start signing players on proper
contracts across a number of sports. Part of this development has been that players are starting to sign sponsorship deals for boots and clothing,
a dream not thought possible ten years ago. It is very early days and not even close to what their male counterparts are enjoying but it’s a positive
start and finally a move in the right direction.
Carly Telford was our first cover star and represents England and Notts County Football as Goalkeeper. Since that first meeting we have kept in touch as
her career progressed. She has for many years been supported by Precision Goalkeeping with gloves and has now developed a range with them specifically
to suit women. The thing that shocked me when Carly contacted me was that no one has done this before! However what surprised me most was Carly’s comment
early in our chat about this new venture “I have never had a glove that properly fits me” she explained. How is it possible that a goalkeeper for the
bronze medal winning team in last year’s World Cup doesn’t have a glove that fits? If this were a male sport you would never even begin to contemplate
such a situation and yet here we are. What is sad is that Carly, like so many others has had to adopt the attitude “you deal with what you are given”
as she puts it. This isn’t what athletes that represent their countries should be saying.
The growth in sportswear and kit tailored to women is growing and I have seen my fair share of it that follows the formula I mentioned earlier of “shrink
it and pink it” with mixed and in some cases disastrous results. This doesn’t mean that pink shouldn’t be allowed, to the contrary there are many athletes
that love that but equally there are many that really don’t want that assumption to be made or to have to wear pink. The other thing that I have seen
happen is that because manufactures are making something for a “niche” market they are charging a premium on the product meaning that it is not attainable
I must admit I had reservations when Carly wanted to chat with me about the glove collaboration for all of the above reasons; however she won me over with
how she and Precision had approached the project.
A number of things impressed me about the process, most importantly her motivation. Carly chatted about growing up wearing boys gloves and playing for
boys teams with no strong female sporting role models and very little money “my mum and dad couldn’t afford expensive kit and so I wanted to make it
affordable. For me the key point was to make them available at a reasonable price” she explained. The World Cup has seen a big increase in girls asking
for boots and kit of their favourite players and as Carly said “boys watch people like Joe Hart and ask if they can have gloves like him so why can’t
girls do the same?” This is then the second part of her motivation, the awareness that she is a role model for the next generation and that she wants
to leave a positive legacy behind. Carly wants girls to have ambition and role models that they can aspire to and emulate. Part of that message is
that women can have kit designed for them by international female athletes that works and most importantly, is affordable. Moreover it shows the next
generation that they can make a positive impact off the field as well as on it.
The last part of the process is the “design”. Many a time have I seen colours changed and sizes shrunk but hailed as “new designs specially for women”,
so I was keen to hear what input Carly had in the process. Full credit to Precision and Carly, designers worked with her spending a lot of time on
sizing and measurements as much on aesthetics. This was about creating a completely new product as opposed to a re-hash of a men’s glove. Such a limited
number of companies are prepared to put the time and money into developing ranges specifically for women that acknowledging when they do is important.
Interestingly Carly was very keen to ensure the gloves looked good but not “girly” because she didn’t want girls being singled out for wearing girly gloves.
She was adamant through the process that she wanted gloves that worked and looked like good goalkeeper gloves, not good girls goalkeeping gloves, “there
is no point putting me in gloves I don’t like to use or wear” Carly said of the process.
Huge respect to Carly for not just putting her name to something that really doesn’t help women but actually looking to make a difference and creating
something that could have a major impact to women around the world. “I never thought I would ever be launching a glove” Carly says of her new range
with Precision. I am really pleased to see the impact Carly is having and look forward to seeing the next generation of goalkeepers who will have something
others have never had.
Editor’s note: We chatted with Carly out of our friendship with her and received no financial gain for this article.