| Sean Marco

Saying but does an athlete really play better when they “look good?”

Some play to win games, some for individual accolades, but others believe there is more to just suiting up and playing to win. In the pros, there are athletes that garner more attention based on how they look rather than their performance during games.

Wearing rare and exclusive sneakers during games, PJ Tucker of the Houston Rockets has been crowned by Nice Kicks as “Kicks On Court” champion for the 2017-2018 season. Although his play and role on the Houston Rockets isn’t eye catching, he is still one of the more known players on the team because of his sense of style on and off the court.

Dr. Nourus Yacoub from the Royal Chiropractic and Sports Injury Clinic in Brampton, Ontario believes looking good does affect a player but mostly the athlete’s attitude. As a recreational player, Yacoub said he enjoyed having the latest and greatest equipment. “In my personal experience, it didn’t increase my performance but I did feel pretty cool out there,” he said. Yacoub added he is live and die for Nike solely for the look and the fit of the products.

Sports psychologist Sean Poitras of Focus North Performance grew up playing junior hockey around the GTA and was a walk-on for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology hockey team where he also studied. He says looking good is more of a reflection of one’s confidence and it affects someone’s decision. “I don’t think it is the underlying factor but it could be a good insight of what their confidence is,” Poitras said.

Poitras mentioned Conor McGregor and his rags to riches story. McGregor was a lesser-known fighter coming up but as the lights got brighter around him, his fashion did as well. “When looking at big name athletes, they are no longer athletes, they are brands,” he said.

When it comes to professional athletes, they have a reason to look the best because they have to look the part. But what is an amateur athlete’s reason to be flashy during games?

While working in the Laurentian basketball program in Sudbury, Poitras remembers a Lithuanian player who preferred Chuck Taylors while playing basketball over a pair of the hottest Jordans or Iversons at the time. “It wasn’t really accepted as the norm but he

wanted to play in Chuck Taylors and enjoyed doing so,” Poitras said. “Do players wear what is accepted by the norm or do they use what they want? In this case, the player was wearing what he felt comfortable in.”

With the Humber Hawks capturing their twelfth OCAA soccer championship and seventh CCAA championship this past season, defenseman Cody Green was an important part of the team but it didn’t show in his stats.

Green says soccer isn’t really a sport that gives you freedom to express your style through your kits. “You can wear arm sleeves and headbands but I don’t really like doing that unless I have a reason to, like when it’s cold, the only thing that truly could pop is your cleats,” he said.

With soccer requiring protective shin guards that forces players to wear long socks, Green allows his natural look to catch the attention of others. “I started growing my hair back in high school to separate me from the typical male athlete with short hair,” he said. Green believes looking good adds confidence to an athlete’s game but he doesn’t really try to look good during games. “I’m just there to play the game and win,” Green said.

Baseball outfielder Canice Ejoh of Canisius College in Buffalo, New York believes looking good does play a role when it comes to playing better. “If you look good, you play good because good looks give you confidence,” he said. He adds many accessories not only for looks but also for extra protection and comfort. From sliding guards and face masks to tapes around the wrist, Ejoh mainly adds special accessories to stand out but also for safety.

Although there are many great brands to choose from, one rule Ejoh swears by is not mixing brands when it comes to accessories and staying with one brand for the game.

For defenseman Everett Flewelling of the Caledon Golden Hawks in the OHA is on the opposite side of the spectrum. Although Flewelling also agrees that looking good does help, his reasoning and personal style is much different. “Hockey isn’t really a sport where you can add special equipment to,” he said. “I mainly just add a different colour tape for certain times of the month; pink for breast cancer awareness and yellow for the playoffs because it is my team colour.”

Much like the Lithuanian player mentioned by Poitras earlier, Flewelling is more into preferred comfort than style. “As long as the product performs to my needs and gets the job done, I am satisfied,” he said. “I’m very superstitious so I try to do and keep everything the same.”

Poitras also believes a player’s style is not necessarily based on the newest and flashiest product. There are some players who are very superstitious and it is well known. “Whether it is their lucky pair of socks or underwear they’ve had for 10 years it comes back to the brand,” he said. Things deteriorate over time and an athlete’s favourite pair of shoes might not be the most comfortable thing anymore but somehow, someway, athletes always find a way to be connected to these special items.

Poitras says Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs is signed with Bauer even though bigger brands probably offered more or just as much money. But sticking to whatever made him feel good and get him to the point where he is now, decided where he signed. “In this case, this speaks more of performance rather than the look,” he said.

Mental health advocate and Peace of Mind founder, Loizza Aquino believes looking good affects a person’s confidence on and off the court. Aquino is a Winnipeg native and was part of multiple basketball teams growing up. For her, standing out during games didn’t

come from what she was wearing but rather she let her performance do the talking. “I like to stand out by doing one thing extremely well,” Aquino said.

For someone who doesn’t play competitive sports anymore, Aquino takes us back to her high school days when her coach firmly believed in “look as a team, play like a team.” In situations like these, an athlete can’t really express their own style but rather a collaborative style for all players of the team.

Aquino believes looking good is essential for a person on and off the court. Being only

five-feet tall “some people don’t really take me seriously,” she said. “So, looking good can really help get me some respect.”

All in all, the athletes looking good does help an athlete play better. Not in the sense of looking the best means you will play the best – looking good gives their confidence an extra boost.

“At the end of the day, you’re looking at the reflection of confidence,” Poitras said. “Whether you possess the skills that you want or the ones you have, it is the idea of fake it until you make it.”

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