As I stepped onto the Tennis court with a friend recently, for some strange reason he began our match by apologizing for the black headband he'd just put on. I couldn't understand why he felt the need to even mention it, after all, most of my friends had grown accustomed to seeing me in my matching bandana wristband combo on a regular basis, and I assumed everyone else thought it looked as super duper cool as I did. Apparently not every feels the same way about wearing accessories during sports, even if said accessory is used for its most practical and given purpose, to keep sweat off your forehead and out of your eyes. Still, some club players feel embarrassed about their accessorization for fear their friend or opponent will think they're trying to emulate the pros. This most likely has to do with the fact that while ripping on your buddies is one of the ways male friendships grow, it's also a reason why some men are apprehensive about wearing accessories during their rec league sports.
To alleviate this fear, here are a few guidelines that will help you overcome your internal conflict and allow you to wear a practical tool for keeping sweat out of your eyes.
We recently read an interesting post on a tennis enthusiast message board that asked the question “how good do you have to be to wear a bandana when you’re playing a match?” Essentially the discussion centered around a club players’ self consciousness over whether their skill level allowed them to wear a bandana while playing tennis. We here at Athletes Collective can attest to this internal struggle and are proud to admit that our level of self consciousness has dissipated over the years with the justification that the accessories we wear when we play sports are in fact practical. We are club level players and we wear bandanas, wristbands and elbow sleeves. Yet we believe the question posted on the message board is more than valid, as adult athletes at the club level constantly struggle with the “am I good enough to try to wear what the pros wear” question. This in essence is what this internal struggle is all about.
In the early to mid 90s the extent to which you could wear or even purchase accessories was limited to a headband, and even that wasn’t prevalent on the court or in the field. Michael Jordan was the most highly accessorized pro athlete, sporting a calf sleeve and wristband on his upper right arm. Andre Agassi sported fluorescent headbands below his now infamous weave. Copying the pros as a kid meant you wore Air Jordans or if you were a tennis player, wearing acid wash jean shorts over fluorescent compression shorts.
Jordan in his signature calf compression sleeve and Andre Agassi in his early 90's Challenge Court Nike gear. Nike had yet to figure out how to put the swoosh on his bandana.
Fast forward to the early 2000’s with Allen Iverson pioneering compression accessories. Around 2005-2006 every NBA player was sporting a headband, and a guy named Rafael Nadal hit the tennis scene sporting a bandana and two wristbands at every match. As the years went by the accessorization of pro sports became more and more prevalent due in large part to sportswear companies realizing there was money to be made by putting their logo on every wrist, head, leg and arm of pro athletes around the world. Now at the high school and pre-high school level, there’s hardly an arm without a sleeve, a head without a band and a leg without ¾ length compression pant. To kids and their friends there’s nothing wrong with that, you look like the pros and you look cool (or at least they think they do).
Allen Iverson brings compression accessories to the NBA, Carmelo Anthony and countless others continue the trend with no less than 4 accessories while Nadal continues to sport matching wristbands and bandanas.
As adults at the club or rec league level however, some of us feel it’s not so cool, and we not only ridicule our friends, teammates and the opposing teams players for sporting said accessories, we internally ridicule ourselves. So how do we rectify this internal struggle? We believe this can be done by assessing the type of accessory you’re sporting, the activity in which your partaking and the amount of accessories you’re choosing to wear at one time.
If you’re going to accessorize at the club/rec league level, here are a few guidelines to alleviate some of that internal conflict.
For some reason we believe that as a kid it’s acceptable to want to dress like the pros (it’s actually considered cute, see photo below for proof), but after a certain age we’re not supposed to want to dress like them anymore.
We must however let go of our insecurities; go out and buy your accessories because for the most part they have a functional purpose. As we age we sweat to a greater degree and are more easily susceptible to injury, so why not do something about it? Forget what your teammates or opponents might think, it's not about being good enough to dress a certain way, it's about being smart enough to wear what helps you when you're playing.
During my high school years, nothing was more important to me than the basketball team (I exclude girls because I didn’t acquire the confidence to speak to them until I was 18). I relished 6:00AM practices twice a week, weekend tournaments, and suicides to get myself into shape. When I was in high school the team mattered, people showed up, people cared, teammates would get in each others faces if they didn’t try their hardest in practice. We had supporters (albeit very few) who came and rooted for us game after game. It was competitive and I loved it. Then all of a sudden it was over, I went to college and moved on to rec league intramural athletics and a gradual downward spiral of not caring.
My first few years out of high school playing intramural basketball and softball still mattered. I was still uber competitive and gave 100% at every game. I got excited to play 3 long softball games a week in 30 degree weather, and nights in a dingy gym during the winter basketball season. As the years went by however, I started to care less and less and the idea of god forbid a 9:00PM Softball game once a week gave me nightmares. Sure I wanted to win, but I wasn’t getting on my teammates' cases for not giving it their all…I became apathetic and started to tell the one guy on the team who was a little too competitive to give it a rest, because “it’s just a game bro.” I started to look at the early 20 something teams, see their enthusiasm and start to poke fun at how seriously they took every game. In reality I was kidding myself, I was just jealous. I envied their energy and their wild bench who cheered for any decent play. I wished I cared about caring for my team.
As we get older, it’s easy to start noticing that there are fewer and fewer hyper competitive teammates on your rec league team. Most are made up of the following: The best player, the fast guy, the can do one thing really good but can’t do anything aside from that one thing guy, the old guy, the guy who never seems to want to be there, and the hyper competitive takes the league too seriously guy. Aside from the best player on the team, the hyper competitive takes the intramural league a little too seriously guy is the most important person on the team, and now I envy him. Here’s why he’s great:
I just had my tennis team tryout for my club's doubles team, at the tryouts I did my best but didn’t really want to be there. Some of my friends however were chatting about the team for days afterwards when I could seemingly care less. I realize though that their attitude is right and mine is dead wrong. Why join a team if it’s just something to do. You don’t have to be the loudest one out there, you don’t have to get everyone fired up, but it’s in your best interest to care. Caring makes the game more fun, makes you a better teammate and makes you feel like you got your money’s worth. So get out there and cheer, get out there and practice, give high fives and send emails with game recaps (people love those I promise). Rec leagues aren’t high school, no one is really cheering for you but yourselves. Just because you never made it to that next level doesn’t mean you have to give up on your dreams of holding that championship trophy. Trophies are just as awesome as an adult because it’ll make you feel like a kid again, just like back in high school when you cared. Thanks competitive rec league guy, you're awesome.