“You find out life’s this game of inches, so is football. Because in either game—life or football—the margin for error is so small. I mean, one half a step too late or too early and you don’t quite make it.”
– Tony D’Amato, Any Given Sunday (1998)
As sports in general have evolved and grown with the passage of time and improving technology, any incremental improvement or advantage could spell the difference between a win or a loss. Seeking even the smallest advantage is what made Kobe Bryant ask his shoe designers at Nike to shave off a few ounces, just so that he can cut and pivot faster on the court.
Tennis players Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams tweaked their diets in order to prolong their careers (and win more championships in the process).
Besides training and revolutionary techniques, athletic gear such as elevation training masks, compression gear, and kinesio tape help athletes to stay ahead of the pack, even by the slightest of margins, as well as recover as quick as possible to get back on the court.
“Athletic gears are really important for us especially through tough games,” Lady Paddlers team captain Jamaica Sy says when asked about how it helps the athletes with their performance.
Complement to the athlete’s grind
Athletes of all levels understand the grind of going through practice, playing through games, balancing other commitments, and repeating the process all over again. This hectic process can result in players getting little nicks and injuries here and there, some of which can result to bigger injuries if left untreated.
It is common to see players getting their ankles wrapped up prior to games, or football players getting sprayed with vapocoolant spray after suffering an injury on the field. Lady Spiker Ara Galang, who suffered an ACL injury in Season 78, wore knee braces to ensure added protection when playing on the court. As of late, the Lady Spikers and the Green Archers have also sported compression tights during games.
“There are times wherein we experience muscle pains during competitions because of intense preparations,” Sy, whose team took their third straight UAAP Women’s Table Tennis title earlier this season, points out. “Muscles are really used up and these athletic gears help us to tone down and to temporarily relieve the pain.”
Nike, Asics, and 2XU are the more visible brands that DLSU teams have been seen wearing on the court, but the athletes use other types of gear to help them perform and recover during various stages of the competition.
“A Game started sponsoring the school this year and we’ve been receiving and using it for a while, and I feel that it’s effective,” Sy says of one of the products they used during the season. “It’s an aftersport rubdown, it helps us cooldown and works like ice baths.”
For those who play sports at the professional level or in international competitions, the demands, along with the pressure, can mount up. Former Green Tanker and 2015 SEA Games gold medalist Nikko Bryan Huelgas competes in triathlons, where athletes must be in the best of shape in order to complete the swim, bike, and run portions of the race. Even during the buildup to the event, having access to items like kinesio tape and various compression gear can, according to him, spell the difference between a gold and silver medal.
“It is extremely important, especially for elite level competition,” Huelgas adds. “Every cutting edge [an athlete can have] to take it to the next level matters.”
Intangibles always matter
Athletic gear aren’t the be-all or end-all for being successful in sports. Though it has helped athletes stay on the court despite a growing number of injuries across sports over the years, the basic tenets of running offensive and defensive sets, good team chemistry, and a healthy lifestyle still play a part in winning championships.
With the commercialization of some of these products, there can be instances where these products end up being more style than substance. Recently, two studies on the effectivity of elevation training masks have shown them to be ineffective as athletes normally improve overall performance if they live in a high-altitude environment versus simply wearing an elevation training mask for, at most, two to three hours.
“I believe if you say it is a necessity, you become reliant to it and like [even] medicines, you become intolerant since you are so used to it,” Sy mentions. “It’s always best to do it the natural way rather than [completely] depending on them.”
In the race to be the best, athletes resort to various methods to perform at a high level. However, like in any sport, it’s the fundamentals that will make the athlete and not the accessories he or she wears come game-time.
“[For] an aspiring athlete, the ones that matter most [are] the non-material stuff such as motivation, perseverance, discipline, a coach, training partners,” Huelgas emphasizes. “Any amount of material gear can’t replace that kind of necessity.”