Gear Up & Game On!

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By James Connolly

There are so many factors that go into professional sport, the main aspect being the immense training each person puts themselves through. But you can also contribute some small part of their performance to the gear they wear and use every day.

Textile technology has improved so much that every time a new strip comes out for a football team, there aren’t just cosmetic changes made. Each piece of clothing is designed to be the most helpful, with moisture wicking technology to reduce friction and keep the athlete cool. The lightweight fabric allows for optimal movement and speed – which is the reason behind the skin-right running kits we see today compared to those seen a few decades ago.

And just looking at the advances made in Paralympic sports shows how it’s vital that we keep improving equipment and finding new ways of achieving amazing results. Sport, no matter what type, is something designed for groups of people, not a solitary act. Even when completing alone, each runner, gymnast, archer – they are part of a team. The support and bonds made within that team are born out of hours of blood, sweat, and tears, and no one should have to miss out on that. Plus, sport is an incredible form of rehabilitation which is again proven by the formidable Paralympic athletes.

But where the perfect blade or wheelchair is expensive and, in the case of the blade, always custom made to fit the runner like a second skin, or limb as it were, not all gear has to empty your bank account. It doesn’t matter if you’re a casual runner, a weekend goalie, or a semi-pro quarterback, making sure you’re wearing and using the right things can seriously help your performance. If you’re uncomfortable or in pain, if you can’t get the right traction or grip, are you really going to be at your best?

Start at the very first layer; underwear. You need to wear supportive underclothes no matter what sport you’re participating in, and that means different things depending on your anatomy. Obviously a correctly fitting sports bra is a must have if you have breasts, and too small or too big a pair of boxers or briefs are going to cause friction and overheating in the testicular area. There’s a great tip for all sports people – particularly runners – to prevent chopping and bleeding of the nipples; apply Vaseline to the area, or use specific nipple covers – much like the ones women use when not wearing a bra with a thin dress.

The next layer of clothing will vary greatly depending on the sport you do – but a general rule is not to cheap out when picking out your gear. Opt for moisture wicking fabric with breathable pockets. Think about layering t-shirts with a jacket for outdoor sports, the level of perspiration that will lead to you looking for great sweatband options, or Sun exposure needing high UV protective glasses. Cycling will require padded shorts, football, rugby, American football – these sports all need the right kind of studded boots, and a wide variety of padding, head gear and gum shields. Get the best to perform the best.

After saying that, it is important to note that sport isn’t always about being the absolute best, and that can sometimes get lost through all the competitiveness and the amount of pressure put on young people aiming for sports scholarships. Playing sport has its origins in ancient Greek history, before the Olympic games, people played sports to let off steam, to impress each other, to exercise and gain muscle. It was largely a male past time and used in a competitive way to prove who was stronger, the same as the origins of the highland games in Celtic Scotland. Whoever could toss a caber (tree trunk) the farthest was the strongest man.

But it was all done for fun. People competed for fun and not because they were paid a crazy amount of money to perform in a certain way and at a certain level. Professional sports people are under immense levels of pressure, as are any public figures, and they have to put their bodies under incredible strain with the level of training and strict dieting they are contractually commanded to do.

So while on your own sports journey- no matter the level you play at – don’t let yourself forget why you started playing in the first place; for the love of the sport and the enjoyment it gives you.

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