University of Michigan and Women's Sports Foundation Establish New Research Policy Center

Partnership Aims to Enhance Experiences of Girls and Women with Sports and Physical Activity Through Research and Policy Development

October 12 - ANN ARBOR, Mich. and NEW YORK--- After a rigorous year-long process to select an institutional research partner, the Women’s Sports Foundation has officially selected the University of Michigan (U-M) to establish a joint research and policy center. The center will be known as the Women’s Sports, Health and Activity Research and Policy Center (SHARP).

The new center – which opens in January 2011 in the University of Michigan’s Institute for Research on Women and Gender (IRWG) – is the first girls’ and women’s sports research partnership involving a university and non-profit. The center will generate interdisciplinary research on issues related to women’s sports, health, gender issues and kinesiology. This research will have a profound impact on the lives of girls and women and will enhance existing and establish new relationships with policymakers, academia and women’s sports organizations. In addition, SHARP will also advocate for the benefits of athletics for positively influencing the lives of girls and women.

More than 20 universities nationwide submitted proposals for the center earlier this year which were reviewed by a task force consisting of experts in women’s sports research, sports business and collegiate athletic administration. The University of Michigan – regarded as a world-class research university – was selected because of its excellent faculty in kinesiology and related fields, history of support for women’s health and gender equity; its broad-based programs serving the needs of a diverse student body; and its nationally recognized graduate program and athletics department.

“Without a doubt, the partnership with the Foundation represents an exciting opportunity for the Institute for Research on Women and Gender, the School of Kinesiology and the University of Michigan,” said U-M President Mary Sue Coleman. “In addition, the center will be able to draw on U-M faculty researchers across campus to catalyze and advance research efforts in all areas related to physical activity for girls and women.”

The Women’s Sports Foundation has been a national leader in conducting and executing high quality evidence-based public interest research on girls and women in sports and physical activity for 25 years.

“This new partnership offers us a host of new resources to further our goals in fighting childhood obesity and improving the overall health and well-being of girls and women through their sports and physical activity,” said Kathryn Olson, chief executive officer for the Women’s Sports Foundation. “By using cutting-edge research tools and methods, we are now in a position to make larger strides in our efforts to educate the public and affect policy.”

The center’s research agenda will be comprised of public interest research and proprietary research. As a result of the collaboration, the new center will generate a variety of information and tools central to the foundation and university’s educational role of supporting evidence-based public debate that informs public policy and encourages elimination of the obstacles girls and women face in sports participation. Issues the center will potentially explore include:

  • Athletic and exercise injuries and why women, in particular, suffer injuries differently and sometimes more frequently, than men (such as knee ligament injuries).
  • How policies have impacted women’s sport participation levels over time, particularly in underserved communities, and how potential new policies might address current inequities.
  • Why and how barriers are keeping women from moving up into the executive ranks of the sports industry.
  • Consumer behaviors – why women buy one brand over another and their preferences, especially in sport – brand psychology.
  • Physical education programs in the nation’s schools and the strengths and weaknesses of physical activity programs for girls.

Kathy Babiak, associate professor of kinesiology, and Carol Boyd, IRWG director, will lead the center. IRWG and the School of Kinesiology will collaborate in this new research area.

“We are looking forward to this ambitious partnership,” Boyd said. “It’s an important opportunity to build on the Institute’s deep strengths in adolescent and women’s health and extend our reach by collaborating with the Women’s Sports Foundation.”

Ronald Zernicke, dean of the School of Kinesiology says, “Our faculty is well-versed in management, consumer behavior, sport policy, sport injuries, biomechanics, exercise physiology, and nutrition. This integrated approach will generate solutions to critical problems and identify opportunities for women and girls’ sports participation and health.” 

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About the Institute for Research on Women and Gender
The Institute for Research on Women and Gender (IRWG), established in 1995 at the University of Michigan, supports scholarship related to women and gender issues. IRWG partners with units throughout the University, and with universities around the world, bringing together diverse faculty, staff and graduate students who are researching the experiences of women and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. The Institute is committed to advancing and disseminating this research in the scientific and public communities. For additional information, visit IRWG:

About the School of Kinesiology
The School of Kinesiology continues to be a leader in the areas of prevention and rehabilitation, the business of sport, understanding lifelong health and mobility, and achieving health across the lifespan through physical activity. The school is home to the Athletic Training, Movement Science, Physical Education, and Sport Management academic programs - bringing together leaders in physiology, biomechanics, public health, urban planning, economics, marketing, public policy, and education and behavioral science. For more information, visit

About Women’s Sports Foundation
The Women’s Sports Foundation, founded in 1974, is the leader in promoting sports, health and education for girls and women. With Billie Jean King as its founder and ongoing visionary, the Women’s Sports Foundation continues to have a profound impact on female athletics, from its vigorous advocacy of Title IX legislation to providing grants and scholarships, grassroots programs for underserved girls, and groundbreaking research. An agent for change, the foundation has relationships with more than 1,000 of the world’s elite female athletes and is recognized globally for its leadership, vision, strength, expertise and influence. For more information, visit

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