Sports-wear for better sports

Shweta Sreeram

I remember the day I first crossed the gates of Shishuvan – the lovely forest for children, there were so many things that could have drawn my attention – the kids of course, the hospitality, the entrance test I had to give – the list is endless. My eyes however fell on the LED screen right at the reception where there was a slideshow on the different events that had happened in the school. I focussed on what the kids were wearing – yes, I am talking about the uniform – striking yellow kurta with green and yellow stripes with a Nehru collar and wooden front buttons, just like the smiling sunflower, and bright green pants. On my way back home the same day, I saw children in various kinds of uniforms – skirts, pinafore, shirt, salwar kameez, etc., and then I wondered at its real significance. Why did I wonder?

There were many reasons – the fabric for example is Khadi – this is excellent for the kind of weather we see in Mumbai, which is hot most times of the year. This fabric neither fades easily nor does it wrinkle. Next comes the colour – the bright yellow and green combination is similar to a sunflower which is not common among the other school uniforms. The sunflower incidentally is also the school logo. I thought the uniforms would differ for both girls and boys but I was truly mistaken – this school promoted a unisex uniform which again promotes a sense of equality. This is also an added advantage for girls since it does not deter them from playing, walking, running, etc., with ease and confidence.

Those who favour the school uniform feel it brings in uniformity, saves time in deciding what to wear every day, prevents students from dressing up, raises the spirits of each child, etc. Those who do not much care for a school uniform say that it limits one’s individuality and freedom of thought, becomes a costly affair when one has to buy more than one set keeping in mind the hygiene factor and the growing child, not forgetting the comfort of the child while wearing these uniforms. Personally speaking, I support the concept of a uniform in all the areas where children stay as a group – for example, in a classroom, the playground, field trips, excursions where being together is mandatory to bring a sense of belonging, pride, and utmost safety.

I teach class 8 and every Tuesday the children have sports in the morning. Usually their prayers and attendance take place in class but on this day, they assemble in the stilts area to finish their prayers and roll call. On one such day, I noticed that these kids were wearing various kinds of sports dress – some short, some long, some were even wearing their sports uniform that they generally wear when they go for competitions. When I asked them why this difference, they just told me their sports teacher had asked them to wear these – some were even fabric or length specific. If all they have to do is to play, what difference does the fabric or the length or any other factor make?

I googled to find out if there were any specific dress requirements for various sports and lo! I found a link – http://monash.edu/sport/assets/docs/aug-uniform-requirements.pdf that provided all details regarding the ideal sports uniform for many events. It was then that I realized the requirements vary irrespective of the sport.

What exactly is sportswear? According to Wikipedia, Sportswear or activewear is clothing, including footwear, worn for sport or physical exercise. Sport-specific clothing is worn for most sports and physical exercise basically for practical, comfort, or safety reasons.

So what does it include? Typical sport-specific garments include shorts, tracksuits, T-shirts, tennis shirts and polo shirts. Specialized garments include wet suits (for swimming, diving or surfing) and salopettes (for skiing) and leotards (for gymnastics). It also includes some underwear, such as the jockstrap and the sports bra.

Looking at the list, one can surely make out the variety available and also understand that they are sport-specific and gender-specific. Apart from these, the age of the child, the body requirements like height and weight, the fabric according to the time of the year, the economic factors etc. also need to be considered while designing the right sportswear for the child.

The material is an equally important aspect that has to be kept in mind while designing or choosing sportswear. Cotton has been a popular choice as it allows the skin to breathe in the midst of activities. Spandex is preferred for the flexibility it provides during activities such as track and field, wrestling, and gymnastics.

Sportswear design must consider the thermal insulation needs of the wearer. In hot climates, the sportswear should help the wearer stay cool; while in cold climates, sportswear should help the wearer stay warm. Moisture-wicking fabrics are a class of hi-tech fabrics that provide moisture control for an athlete’s skin. They move perspiration away from the body to the fabric’s outer surface where it can evaporate. These fabrics typically are soft, lightweight, and stretchy.

While we talk about sports uniform, we must not forget how footwear is an important necessity in any sport. The usual considerations include the size of the feet, the sport that the individual is involved in, the comfort feeling, etc. The following links – http://www.aofas.org/footcaremd/how-to/footwear/Pages/Selecting-Athletic-Shoes.aspx and http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/foothealth/Pages/Choosingsportshoes.aspx are a must read before you buy a pair of shoes for your sport activity.

At Shishuvan, all these factors are considered. In fact students’ views are also considered. I recall an incident where a group of girl students wanted to design their own sports uniform for gymnastics. They did so and realized that it was not a really good decision. It was then that the Principal intervened and made them look into the factors that they had overlooked while designing and helped them create a good sports uniform. This way I too understood that it’s not just the Principal or the sports teacher’s job to create and approve the sports uniform – the students, importantly, and the other teachers also have a definite say.

What do students have to say about their sportswear? I talked to a few of them to get their responses. Himika, an eighth grade student personally feels that their school’s sports uniform is very comfortable and the vibrant colours – yellow and green are pleasing to the eye. The uniform represents her school wherever her team goes and there basically arises no need to introduce themselves.

Mahi, another eight grader agreed totally with Himika’s views regarding the attractive and vibrant colours of the uniform and how they were always easily recognized when they were in a crowd. She felt it was very comfortable and prevented the inappropriate exposure of the physical body.

A talk with our physical education teacher, Nilesh gave me better insights about the way the school’s first ever sports uniform was designed. The uniform was actually designed by the Executive director, Principal, sports teacher, and the students. I probed a little more and asked him about the various factors that they had in their minds when they designed the first ever Shishuvan sports uniform. The colour green and yellow was decided keeping in mind the uniform colour of the school. This includes the name of the school, the school’s logo which is the bright yellow sunflower in the front and the name of the student at the back. Cotton was also the preferred fabric choice. At Shishuvan, every individual counts – maybe that is the reason why the number at the back is also as decided by the student.

The school promotes sports like volleyball, basketball, table tennis, cricket, gymnastics – a quick look at these sports uniforms is indicative of the fact that they are different and have been designed keeping in mind the comfort aspects of the child.

For a country that favours democracy and supports secularism, a uniform is surely the best choice as it promotes a sense of commonality and creates a feeling of equality. Shishuvan is one such place which believes that participation is more important than winning or losing and gives equal opportunities to all and yes every individual here is counted!!

The author is passionate about teach.ing. She can be reached at shweta3nd1986@gmail.com.