“I figured that if I said it enough, I would convince the world that I really was the greatest.”
This week I was involved in a discussion regarding the new rules regarding helmet facemasks. The new NCAA ruling bans "Non-Standard Overbuilt Facemasks”, like the one made famous by Jason Tuck.
With BAFA adopting this and other NCAA rule changes it means this will come into effect in the 2016 season effecting all in the UK Game.
Whilst discussing this with a fellow coach, we were wondering what type of player wants a ‘Batman’ logo on their facemask? What possesses someone to spend close to £100 on a ‘Tuck’ cage? Here at GDS we love great designs, we love being creative with colours, finishes etc, but usually for us that’s always as part of a team look. A player needs a black lid to fit in with his team, not to stand out.
Whilst Facemasks might have some practical use, the sport is awash with superhero under shirts, bicep bands, individualised boots and skin tight sleeves. So what is it which makes players participating in the greatest team sport on earth want to invest so heavily in such products?
One answer is simply fashion, and the changing times... what passed as fashionable back in the day, can very quickly become the thing of derision, if you don’t agree google ‘Flock of Seagulls’ or ‘Mullet’ for two great examples!
Ralph Reiff, a certified athletic trainer and director of St. Vincent Sports Performance in Indianapolis would certainly agree,
“There is absolutely no benefit from a performance standpoint or a medical standpoint.” He has seen the upper-arm bands become popular on football players from the N.F.L. down to middle school. “It’s purely a fashion statement.”
Regardless however below we see Patrick Willis, and even ignoring the scary change in the physicality of the game, with the tailored/tapered jersey cut away in the pits of the arms, low profile pads which only just cover the shoulders, bicep bands and matching gloves it’s hard to argue he doesn’t look better than poor old Hall of Fame backer, Jack Ham.
However whilst certainly field fashion has changed, tighter fitted shirts are harder to hold for the opposition, lower profile pads allow for greater movement and are lighter to wear and no-one will miss water soaked cotton shirts under pads. But what about bicep bands and Tuck facemasks?! Is there really any advantage beyond fashion?
One classic response is “look good, play good”. That by adorning the mandated equipment with personalised twists and accessories, they feel they look good, which increases self confidence and hopefully performance.
Ronnie Barnes, vice president for medical services for the New York Giants, agrees.
“There is no medical benefit or purpose,” said Barnes, who has about 10 players on his team wearing versions of the bands. “A lot of players wear them because they believe it enhances the muscular definition in their arms. At the end of the day, you can attribute this increasing trend to the old adage: look good, feel good, play good.”
If you also look at the concept of ‘fake it till you make it’ and ‘self fulfilling prophecies’ it’s maybe not so crazy to encourage or allow your players to find things they can build into their gameday experience to increase their self confidence, whether that’s routines, items of clothing, music or bicepbands is a purely personal choice.... but it might add a really positive weapon in your arsenal!
Interestingly one of the reasons cited by the league (NCAA) to outlaw overbuilt facemasks is that it might create over confidence. When a player feels now their head or face is totally inaccessible, or so heavily protected from contact, they might play with such confidence it's to the detriment of their own well being. Certainly in my experience with the British American Football Coaching Association during our Level 1 coaching courses we talk about even basic equipment giving players a false sense of security or protection and it seems the NCAA recognises that in this case also.
Just as they say you should never meet your heroes, if you want to stick out from your team and want people to look at you, you might want to be careful what you wish for!
A UCLA Anderson School of Management study found that when measured in tasks and team exercises, extroverts tended to be perceived worse, than those which showed neurotic characteristics, such as shyness or timidity.
"The core of extroversion is wanting to be the center of attention," Corrine Bendersky, an associate professor said. "[Initially], there’s a very strong, intuitive assumption by others that the enthusiasm, outgoingness and assertiveness of extroverts is associated with being very strong, positive contributors to tasks at work. But extroverts like to talk more than to listen. They’re not particularly receptive to other people’s input. While they really excel at tasks where they get all the credit, in interactive, collaborative settings, their peers start out with high expectations for them and end up disappointed."
Neurotics, on the other hand, possess qualities that help them rise to the occasion.
"The neurotic personality is really [plagued by] an anxiety of not wanting to disappoint peers and colleagues," said Bendersky.
As a result if a player wants to make themselves stick out, or wants to demonstrate those extrovert traits, they need to understand they will most likely be judged by a higher standard. Sadly there is that element of schadenfreude when people love to see the player with a visor drop the football!
In America, The National Federation of State High School Associations, which establishes the football rules for all states except Massachusetts and Texas, sees upper-arm bands as just another frivolous product to sell to kids, and another piece of unnecessary equipment to be policed by officials.
“The last thing we want is our kids looking like walking billboards,” said Bob Colgate, the federation’s assistant director.
Last year, noticing the rampant use of upper-arm bands, the federation made the enforcement of Rule 1-5-3k one of its points of emphasis for officials around the country. The rule addresses illegal uniform adornments and is specific about the only kind of wristband allowed: those “worn on the wrist beginning at the base of the thumb and extending no more than 3 inches toward the elbow.”
I think certainly for the youth and junior game, whilst athletes love talking about ‘swag’, ‘field fashion’ and having the latest equipment and brands, as coaches and teams it’s perhaps something we need to help temper, and encourage a more suitable use of their (or their parents) hard earned money!
Could club managers and coaches maybe do a better job of guiding players on equipment which is needed (and thus should be invested in) and those which really are Cinderella items?
Safety Kerry Rhodes is one of about eight Jets who wear wristbands above his elbows, a look he has harvested since high school, he said. “It was just a fashion statement at first,” Rhodes said. “Now it’s just a thing I do as I get dressed.” Over at Giants Stadium, tight end Kevin Boss saves his bands for last when he puts on his Giants uniform. He wears his just above his elbows.
“I feel naked without them,” he said.
So I guess whilst me and my coaching peer maybe are left scratching our heads as to why there is so much money and focus on the latest trends or wanting to dress up as a superhero, when you consider the effects on confidence, the changing culture in sport and that it’s just what people wear now, maybe it’s not so crazy.
What do our readers think? We'd love to hear your thoughts so let us know in the comment boxes or on any Facebook page this is shared on, be great to hear how coaches from all levels approach this issue!
Thanks for reading and hope you all have a great week.
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