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We are Courageous: Speaking Out Boldly and Acting for Change: Women in Sport and Exercise Academic Network Conference, 20–22 June, 2023

Milly Blundell, Tori Sprung, and Zoe Knowles

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Menstrual Cycle and Hormonal Contraceptive Symptom Severity and Frequency in Athletic Females

Laura R. Kiemle-Gabbay, Stephanie Valentin, Daniel Martin, and Laura J. Forrest (née Whyte)

The purpose of this study was to determine symptom severity and frequency in female exercisers and athletes from a diverse range of sports who have a menstrual cycle (MC) or use hormonal contraceptives (HCs). An additional aim was to explore the perceived impact of MC/HC use upon exercise and sport performance. In total, 604 self-identifying female athletes and exercisers (M = 29.4 years, SD = 9.0) from 85 sports/activities completed a survey which included: sport/exercise participation, bleeding characteristics, HC use, symptom severity/frequency, symptom management strategies, menstrual product use, and perceived impact of MC/HC use on exercise performance. The data were subject to mixed-methods analysis. Over one third (n = 225; 37.25%) of participants reported current HC use. Ninety-five percent (95.36%) of participants experienced symptoms related to MC or HC use. Physiological, psychological, and affective symptoms were all among the most prevalent. The most frequently noted severe and very severe symptoms for all participants, MC and HC users, were abdominal cramps (36.92%, 39.32%, and 32.89%, respectively), mood changes (26.16%, 25.07%, and 28.00%, respectively), and tiredness (25.33%, 25.59%, and 24.89%, respectively). Symptom impact was self-managed through medical and/or other (cognitive/behavioral) strategies. Qualitative content analysis of the data produced four overarching themes: (a) the impact of symptoms, (b) menstrual stigma and taboos, (c) protective factors, and (d) coping strategies. In conclusion, menstruation is a multifaceted, unique experience that impacts upon sport/exercise performance. Practitioners should consider athletes’ distinct needs, including the frequency of occurrence and severity of their symptomatic experiences, when facilitating menstruation-supportive training, avoiding a “one-size fits-all” approach.

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BLinG-Health: A Peer-Led Physical Activity Program for Black Adolescent Girls—A Pilot Study

Tara B. Blackshear and Taylor Baucum

Background: Culturally relevant approaches that address low physical activity rates among Black girls are increasing, yet opportunities to engage in physical activity (PA) remain minimal. Coupled with deficit approaches to school-based PA programming, positioning Black adolescent girls as PA leaders is missing from practice. BLinG-Health aims to develop peer leaders to participate in and deliver group fitness sessions in an after-school PA program. Methods: Black adolescent girls engaged in a culturally relevant, 8-week pretest and posttest quasi-experimental pilot study examining the impact of a peer-led school-based PA intervention program in a Baltimore, Maryland, public school. After peer leaders engaged in a 12-hr fitness education, training, and certification program using the Interactive Fitness Trainers of America’s Tabata group fitness instruction and certification series, peer leaders led classmates in group fitness 2–3 days a week for 8 weeks. Peer leaders and participants completed two assessment rounds at baseline and Week 9, including height and weight, to compute body mass index, waist circumference, hip circumference, hip-to-waist ratio, a 12-min run/walk, and push-up test. Results: Participants (n = 7; M age = 16.43 years) significantly improved in cardiovascular endurance (p = .025) and muscular endurance (p = .013) with modest, nonsignificant changes in anthropometric measures. Discussion: Challenging deficit narratives on Black girls’ PA engagement, participants consistently attended weekly group fitness sessions and improved cardiovascular and muscular fitness. Empowering Black adolescent girls to lead group fitness sessions among peers may enhance PA engagement. Schools should consider culturally relevant programming to increase Black girls’ opportunities to engage in PA.

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Female Physiology–Endocrinology: Education Is Lacking and Innovation Is Needed!

Anthony C. Hackney and Kirsty J. Elliott-Sale

Throughout their lifespans, women undergo unique endocrinological changes relative to their reproductive hormones. The influence of how the female sex steroid hormones have nonreproductive actions is a trending topic of great interest in the exercise–sports sciences, especially among women of reproductive age. Herein, we present several key points on our perspective for moving the study of this topic forward in the future. These are (a) encouraging researchers to pursue high-quality research on female physiology–endocrinology in the exercise–sports science setting, (b) the need for exercise–sports science educational curriculums at the university level to embrace the study of female physiology–endocrinology area, and (c) the need for innovation in the study of this topic. As such, we propose using research design models involving supraphysiological hormonal states in vivo, that is, pregnancy and in vitro fertilization treatment, to gain new insights on sex steroid hormonal actions in women. Herein, we provide the rationale for our recommendations as well as a brief physiological overview of these clinical states. We acknowledge, exercise sports sciences need more studies on women! But there is a need to “think outside the box” on this topic, and we encourage researchers to be unconventional, be bold, think creatively, and contemplate whether these supraphysiological hormonal states might give them insightful information on female physiology and ovarian sex steroid hormones actions.

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Envisioning the Expansion and Continuity of the Cross-Generational Conversation in Women’s Sport and Physical Activity

Yeomi Choi, Akilah Carter-Francique, DeAnne Davis Brooks, Judy Liao, and Katherine M. Jamieson

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Roots of Resistance: The Origins of the Black Women in Sport Foundation and the Politics of Race and Gender

Raja Malikah Rahim and Rita Liberti

Tina Sloan Green, Nikki Franke, Alpha Alexander, and Linda Greene represent an integral part of a culture of Black women in sports who created a place and space for themselves and others in opposition to the long history of racism and sexism that suffused sports in the United States and global world. As founders of the Black Women in Sport Foundation (BWSF), their activism and organizing on behalf of Black women and girls in, and beyond sport, is as varied as it is vast. While the founders have been interviewed about the BWSF numerous times throughout their respective careers, those interviews fail to capture the paths that led them to successful careers or the incorporation of the BWSF. Using oral history narratives, this paper contends that their experiences from childhood to young adulthood offer incredible insights about the origins and evolution of their critical consciousness around race and gender that emerged during their formative years. It illuminates the familial, communal, educational, and sporting legacies of BWSF founders from childhood to the mid-to-late 1970s, when their worlds collided at Temple University. Their histories underscore how they navigated and negotiated the ideologies of racism and sexism from childhood to adulthood. As young Black women who lived before the passage of Title IX, their stories depict the early struggles and successes of women and girls’ participation in sports and broader society. Individually and collectively, BWSF founders’ oral history narratives offer a great understanding of Black women in sports and society in the past and present.

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Exploring Basic Needs, Motivation, and Retention Among Female Sport Officials

Janna K. Sunde, Robin Tharle-Oluk, Alice A. Theriault, and David J. Hancock

Sport officials in general, and female sport officials specifically, are underrepresented in the research. More work is required to better understand what attracts female sport officials to the role, along with what facilitates their retention. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationships between female sport officials’ motivations, basic needs, and intentions to remain as officials. Through an online survey, 186 female sport officials responded to (a) the Basic Needs Satisfaction in Sport Scale (BNSSS), (b) the Referee Retention Scale (RRS), and (c) questions assessing Reasons for Becoming Officials. Pearson correlation tests established relationships among various subscales, and regression tests were conducted to determine whether any variables predicted RRS scores. All five BNSSS subscales significantly correlated with most RRS subscales and one Reasons for Becoming Officials subscale. Further, regression analysis revealed that increased scores on the BNSSS—specifically feelings of competence, choice, volition, and relatedness—predicted intentions to remain as officials, as measured by the RRS. Since the BNSSS predicts retention, sporting organizations should implement retention strategies that focus on building competence, volition, and relatedness among female sport officials.

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Maximal Strength Training as a Pathway to Positive Body Image: A Qualitative Exploration of the Experiences of Female Powerlifters

Erin L. Kelly, Michelle Minehan, and Kate Pumpa

This study considers the potential relationship between maximal strength training and positive body image by exploring the lived experiences of female powerlifters. Semistructured interviews were conducted with eight female powerlifters from Australia, and data were analyzed thematically. The study identified five themes related to positive body image and participation in maximal strength training: (a) appreciation of the functionality of the body, (b) embodiment, (c) rejection of societal body ideals and self-objectification, (d) self-compassion and body image flexibility, and (e) being surrounded by a body-positive community. These findings are consistent with existing literature on positive body image and participation in activities that promote embodiment. There is value in further investigation of maximal strength training as an intervention to develop positive body image in women.

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Internal and Social Assets, Weight-Based Bullying, Sport, and Activity Among Female Adolescents

Sarah M. Espinoza, Christie L. Martin, Marla E. Eisenberg, Iris W. Borowsky, Barbara J. McMorris, and Laura Hooper

Via a school-based survey, we used a developmental assets framework to investigate associations of internal and social characteristics and weight-based bullying with sport and physical activity (PA) among female adolescents with high weight status (n = 4,468; M age = 14.9 years, SD age = 1.3; body mass index ≥ 95th percentile). Participants reported ≥60 min of PA on approximately 3.0 days (SD = 2.1) in the previous week. Over one-third played organized team sports, averaging 3.5 days (SD = 1.5) per week. Weight-based bullying was common (46%) and unassociated with lower sport and PA. Results from t-tests and chi-squared tests demonstrated that adolescents who played sport (vs. those who did not) had higher internal developmental assets, better perceived health, and stronger perceptions of caring from parents, friends, and other community adults. Similarly, adolescents engaging in more PA reported higher developmental assets. In regression models adjusted for all variables and demographic characteristics, higher internal developmental assets, better perceived health, and stronger perceptions of caring from adults in the community were positively and significantly associated with increased odds of sport participation and higher PA. Findings suggest female adolescents with high weight status have internal and social assets related to their participation in PA and sport, despite experiencing weight-based bullying. Adults (e.g., coaches, parents, and healthcare professionals) should help female adolescents with high weight status participate in sport and PA and build developmental assets. Adults should also recognize the frequent weight-based bullying youth encounter and strive to mitigate it in sport and PA contexts.

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Redressing the Balance: Women in Sport and Exercise Academic Network Conference, University of Worcester, United Kingdom, April 19–22, 2021

Gillian Renfree