Flinders graduate Velvet Klass is breaking down barriers in the sports industry by researching the effect of the menstrual cycle on female athletes. Living by the motto, ‘she who fears she shall suffer, already suffers what she fears’, Velvet has been fearless by creating conversations around a topic still wrongly considered taboo.
While completing Honours in a Bachelor of Sport Health and Physical Activity (now named Bachelor of Sport and Active Recreation), Velvet started two businesses: Athletic Ladies Finding Answers (ALFA) and Fuel and Flow with fellow PhD candidate Amy Wright, both of which provide education about female athlete health.
“Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about the menstrual cycle, eating disorders, and body image”, says Velvet. “We hope to help educate female athletes and their coaches, as much of the information that is out there is directed at male athletes.”
Velvet has not looked back since starting to run these seminars through ALFA and Fuel and Flow. The feedback from participants has been hugely positive, with some describing the information as ‘eye-opening’. As a result, athletes have felt more comfortable discussing their menstrual cycle with their coaches and peers. Their success has allowed Velvet to further expand the seminars into schools.
“We’ve recently started doing seminars in schools which has been super rewarding and the students really get a lot out of it,” says Velvet. “We’ve even started doing seminars for male students, which focuses on research specific to them but also includes a section on the menstrual cycle to help break down some misconceptions they might have.”
Velvet has always loved sport, but has experienced a lack of support when it comes to both women’s sport and women’s health in sport. Her experiences are what have driven her to become a change-maker.
“I’m passionate about working in women’s sport because I grew up missing out on a lot of opportunities due to being a female in sport, similar to many female athletes I know,” says Velvet. “It wasn’t realistic for us to strive to become a professional female athlete because we would require a second job to survive. When I first started Honours, I realised I barely knew anything about the menstrual cycle and how it could affect my performance. I would take all the information I had to trainings, whether I was coaching or playing, and share it with the people around me. It became obvious that female athletes weren’t receiving any information about their bodies.”
Velvet is taking her research to the next level through her PhD in female athlete health. She’s also continuing her journey as an educator, having recently started working as an Associate Lecturer at Flinders.
“I’ve always loved sport and have been fascinated by how the body works”, says Velvet. “After I started investigating female athlete health and the menstrual cycle there was no going back, as I had more questions I wanted answered. Undertaking my Honours and PhD has really confirmed my interests. I really want to make change in women’s sport and provide further opportunities for young girls.”
As a female soccer coach, athlete, and researcher, the recent FIFA Women’s World Cup held in Australia was a seismic moment for Velvet and a major milestone for women’s sport, particularly in Australia.
“This World Cup wasn’t just a tournament; it was a catalyst for change, fueling the momentum of women’s sports”, says Velvet. “The impact of our national team’s performance goes beyond scores and titles. It’s about empowering generations to come, fostering equality in sports, and challenging outdated norms. This World Cup was for all the young girls like me that didn’t believe we could amount to full-time professional athletes. It marked a chapter in history where we declared that women’s sports deserve equal recognition, support, and celebration.”
While the research path Velvet has chosen can be challenging, her passion for women’s sport and the support of her peers and academic mentors has allowed her to be fearless in the pursuit of equality and increased understanding of women’s health in sport.
“I’m fearless because I’m not afraid to stand up for what I believe in. I think you do need to be fearless when researching and educating people on taboo topics, such as the menstrual cycle,” says Velvet. “People are often uncomfortable and shy away from these topics, even though women have been menstruating since the beginning of time… [so] I want to push through the taboo perception of the topic to improve the sporting industry.”
Find your Fearless. If you want to learn more about studying Sport and Active Recreation, click here.