2 Apr 2024

Gymnastics New Zealand overhauls attire rules

9:55 am on 2 April 2024
Feet of gymnast are seen on the floor exercise before gymnastics competition

Gymnasts in all codes in New Zealand can now wear shorts over their leotards. Photo: 123RF

Competitive gymnasts in all codes in New Zealand can now wear shorts over their leotards and will no longer face penalties for issues like having a visible bra strap following an overhaul of the sport's attire regulations.

The changes are about making athletes, the majority of whom are young females, feel comfortable and safe and ensuring the sport is fully inclusive, Gymnastics New Zealand chief executive Andrea Nelson said.

The changes align with a research report released by Massey University's School of Sport, Exercise and Nutrition which details National Sport Organisations (NSO) perspectives, decision-making processes, and directives on female athlete uniform designs.

The Massey University study, along with athlete consultation conducted by Gymnastics NZ, confirmed that body image was considered the greatest issue for New Zealand gymnasts when it came to sport uniform design.

"We surveyed our competitors across all of the gymnastic disciplines and what we found was that most of the girls actually love wearing a leotard," Nelson said.

"But there are some gymnasts who just don't feel comfortable in that attire. Gymnastics aspires to be a foundational sport for all New Zealanders, so it was a pretty simple change to allow competitors to wear shorts to ensure no one feels uncomfortable or excluded."

The study found that 37.8 percent of sports felt decisions about female sport uniform designs should predominantly lie with the athletes.

The change to allow shorts in many gymnastics codes came into effect soon before the wide-ranging review of the sport in 2020, however, Nelson said it had not been consistent, leading to misunderstandings among some clubs and competitors.

"We've overhauled the attire regulations across all five competitive disciplines to make it very clear - if you want to wear shorts you can.

"We've also clarified the regulations to ensure competitors aren't disadvantaged by things like having a bra strap showing. We found the regulations around underwear were unclear and unevenly applied and, to be honest, a little archaic."

Nelson said the changes were around comfort and safety.

"Gymnastics is a tough enough sport without having to stress about incurring a deduction because a judge can see your bra strap.

"We had parents of young gymnasts come to us worried that they couldn't find a bra for their daughter that would provide adequate support that didn't have a visible strap. That sort of thing shouldn't be happening - so we've now made that very clear in the updated regulations.

"Obviously we've also addressed a gender equity issue - male gymnasts have been able to wear shorts or trousers, but until recently females haven't."

Changes and clarifications have been made to all five gymnastic codes for competitions in New Zealand.

They do not apply to international competitions, which are governed by FIG regulations.

Body image issues, visibility of menstrual blood, and visibility of underwear were all issues that could contribute to increased female player anxiety cited by the NSOs which contributed to the Massey study.

Nelson believed the changes to Gymnastics NZ's attire regulations would be widely accepted by the sport.

"The reality is we are simply providing a choice - no one who doesn't want to change what they have been wearing has to change. But now athletes who might have felt uncomfortable with the way the regulations have previously been interpreted and enforced have options to ease that discomfort.

"The goal is to break down an acknowledged barrier to participation to ensure gymnastics is accessible for everyone."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs

We have regular online commentary of local and international sport.