Some of the logistical moments of coaching are not fun.
It is a standing joke, sort of, that the worst day of the season for me is the day that we hand out uniforms to the boys.
It means so much to them, and as hard as they try, they can’t help worrying about their place in line. For me, I worry about things like making sure we have enough larges for the large boys, and mediums for the medium boys, and smalls for the small ones. Sometimes, when the team is big, I worry that we have enough uniforms at all.
I learned in my first year of coaching twelve-year-old girls in AYSO soccer that it doesn’t work to put kids in a line and expect them to behave well. I really should just figure out an alternative way to distribute uniforms.
I haven’t really enjoyed the process of purchasing uniforms, either. It is a big expense—the biggest expense of our program. We go through it every three years. It requires some negotiations with our athletics director, who has to ask understandable questions about why we purchase this uniform at this price as opposed to that uniform—perhaps at a cheaper price. Our school has some very specific guidelines in terms of the colors we are supposed to have—and the graphics that we use. There are some IHSA uniform requirements to consider. There is also the problem of ordering the right numbers for each particular size. You don’t want to make a mistake because money is involved–and these are the uniforms you live with for the next three years.
And of course, most important of all, you have to worry about whether the boys will like their new uniforms.
Three years ago we upgraded a lot by moving from a generic brand to the top of the line Asics product, their Medley style singlets and shorts. It was a big step for us.
I worked closely with the Asics team sales representative, Dan McGinn. Our school had just completed a graphic identity program which was quite specific in terms of color requirements—mandating dark maroon, not the more common cardinal, and what I guess one would call a Notre Dame gold, not the bright yellow gold of our previous uniforms. The school had also developed a new athletics logo. Working within the color constraints, I made a choice for the color combination, going with maroon and black, and we used the new logo in gold on the front and the back.
The boys liked their new uniforms, of course. We bought speed suits for the first time, which the sprinters loved. The distance runners–the real cross country guys–loved the short short split shorts. The boys particularly liked something that was even my idea—putting what was at the time our new Wolfhead logo on the back of the singlet top. Putting logos on the back was not something that many teams were doing at the time. They loved the feel and comfort of the newer type of uniform fabric that Asics has developed. They felt that they looked pretty good, too.
But over the next two years as I listened to them discuss team fashions, especially at the state track meet where that is a big discussion topic, it was clear that we had fallen a little bit short of their style standards, mainly in terms of my color choice and using the school logo. Of course, it is also probably true that new uniforms are not new for long–and we have to wear one set of new uniforms for a few years before we get newer ones. In other words, even new uniforms eventually become old uniforms.
Looking ahead, however, I’ve been talking to them carefully over the last year about what they would like the next round. I have a much better idea, in principle, about what they really like.
As I did my first researches, I kept their preferences in mind. Again, I contacted Dan McGinn, but also a few other uniform vendors. I looked over some styles and got some prices.
And when I had narrowed down the search and had some clear choices to make, I included the boys more directly in the process.
Last week I sent out some possible styles and color combinations by email to our juniors and seniors, and got back some more specific feedback to narrow down the possibilities further. The Asics team uniform site allowed me to make various combinations of colors and print them as PDF files, which I attached to the emails.
And today I had the fun of meeting with a good-sized group to match some pictures of singlets with some pictures of shorts and make some definitive decisions.
There was no line for the boys to wait in. We all huddled around a bench in the school lobby with the pictures spread out before us. The boys were gathering for their after school run, which they do on their own without any directions from me. First there were a few out of the locker room, then a few more. We didn’t tell the ones who came later which combination the first ones liked best. But gradually it was clear that they had a consensus.
It was a lot of fun.
They are very excited, of course, about the season ahead—and their new uniforms. In about two weeks, I imagine, they will begin to ask me whether the new uniforms are here yet.
I will tell them to have patience.
Choose your favorite for the uniform top and bottom: