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If you can't be a champion, why not "look" like one!

Maybe clothes don't make the man (or the woman)... after all, a new jersey isn't going to make your first-team QB throw 10 yards farther or make a dunker out of your 5-8 point guard. But if it makes them feel that they can, can it hurt?

"Winners look like winners," says Jon Margolis, who coaches soccer at Lincoln High School in eastern Pennsylvania. "We all know that athletes take pride in their appearance, stand tall, have a clean and well-cared for uniform.

"But coaches are involved, too. I want my athletes to be the best-dressed and best-equipped team on every field they play on. And it has to start with me, the coach. I have to get them the best uniforms and equipment that our budget will allow."

Coach Margolis agrees that taking care of the equipment and uniforms can be as much a part of the coach's job as the x's and o's. "It is one more thing that coaches have to worry about - and will often neglect. And it will show up on the field."

If you're lucky enough to have an equipment manager, he or she will take some of the work off your hands, but that person will still require supervision.

Every coach has a wish-list of the items that make up a "dream" uniform. The problem lies in getting it past the bean-counters. "It's hard to justify the cost of new uniforms every five years or so because they wear out," says Coach Margolis. "But try adding an extra line in the budget every couple of years!"

The struggle between your athletes' needs and the limitations of the budget is one of those hardy perennials in the garden of athletic programs. What is the best answer?

"Research, preparation, buying smart," advises Maria Stefan of the Sporting Good Manufacturers Association. "The Association realizes that budget consciousness is a major concern of coaches and that more and more manufacturers are factoring it into the equation whenever presenting new lines of uniforms and athletic apparel. Many industry innovations and concessions have been made to take into account financially challenged school programs, including more durable fabrics, reversibles, and sleeveless shirts that can be reused."

Technology has helped here, too. Over the past few years, new materials such as CoolMax and new types of polyesters have allowed manufacturers to create uniforms that last longer, keep their shape and color, and resist tears.

Stefan also cites the "value/price relationship" when appraising new uniforms. Simply put, this mean projecting what you're going to have to spend on uniforms this year over the number of years you can reasonably expect to use the uniforms. The lower the number goes, the higher the value.

Stefan adds: "Since price and value are such considerations for most coaches, most vendors and dealers are familiar with the various value/price relationships for different lines. It's therefore not only important but expected for coaches to discuss the V/PR with their dealers or vendors when purchasing or researching a purchase."

Once the uniforms are selected and purchased, other problems arise. "In our program," says Coach Margolis, "if you damage or lose a piece of equipment, you replace it, or you do without. Just as you would fine a player for losing a playbook. We fine players for being negligent and not taking care of their equipment, and that includes uniforms."

Coach Margolis believes that this approach fosters the athlete's responsibility for their own gear, and their appearance out on the field. "If you can't suit up because you lost or damaged your uniform, then you can't play. And besides having to stay off the field, you have also let your teammates down.

"If you are a star player and it's a big game, your actions have an impact. It's a good way to bring that lesson to your athletes, that you are placing the highest priority on care of the equipment."

Veteran coaches will tell you that the year-in, year-out challenge is to obtain the best-looking, most comfortable gear for the smaller budget dollar. As SGMA's Stefan and Coach Margolis have stated, there are many ways to accomplish this. The two things cited by everyone are (a little) ingenuity and (a lot of) preparation:

Examine the garments carefully. Pay attention to such things as the multi-functionality and durability of fabrics, as well as the garments' comfort and appearance. Examine care labels and make sure there are no extraordinary steps required to keep the garments in shape, and that the instructions on the labels are followed. "Protect your investment," says Stefan.

Remember your V/PR. When examining your value/price relationship, make sure that durability is not sacrificed for price. In other words, avoid materials that may be less expensive but will wear, tear, and not hold up to the rigors of the season.

Check replaceability. One of Stefan's golden rules is: "Never order a discontinued line, even if it offers a deep discount. It's not worth it, and the first ripped jersey or torn short will tell you why. Replacements on discontinued lines are nearly impossible to find. It's not worth the mark down."

If the budget bucks are that tight, look for a more economical line that is still in production. It will save money without wasting it.

Get input. Before making any move to purchase, sit down and have a long talk with the AD or other supervisor. Assess needs, analyze the available budget dollars, and plan a strategy. Then talk to the team. Find out what problems or complaints they have had in the past, such as sticky artificial fabrics, flimsy materials that don't provide enough support, or "the darn things that just look like hell." All of this information is vital to know before the order is placed. Not only that, but you ensure that your players' needs will be met. And they will appreciate the input.

Prepare in advance. This could be the most important step. A coach who hasn't done his homework before heading out in this area is dead. You have to know what you're dealing with, you have to set reasonable, meetable goals, and you want to avoid surprises.

Sometimes the key to solving a problem isn't money as much as time. If coaches know in advance that they are going to be several hundred dollars short of what they need for new uniforms, they will be able to explore several possible agencies, such as booster clubs and fund-raisers.

Armed with the necessary information and strategies, just what is there to choose from this year?

BASKETBALL

Basketball remains the sport with the largest market share in the apparel industry. Only soccer is larger on the international level, but hoops is gaining fast.

Russell Athletic is the largest uniform manufacturer in the United States, and, as such, is in the lead with innovative products and programs. One of its new programs this year is the "in-stock" program, which offers basic, off-the-shelf uniform styles in a variety of predetermined colors and styles.

This is a direct response to the budgetary needs of their customers. The in-stock lines are designed to make a team look good without breaking their bank, and it provides for quick and inexpensive replacements, as well. The line features both medium weight and reversible mesh tank tops, warp-knit shorts with elastic waists and drawstrings, and workout shorts in both regular-fabric and mesh. Tearaway pants are also growing in popularity. Russell is also making available to the general public nylon tearaways that are both durable and comfortable. Exactly the same as the pros wear, the pants are fully lined and feature acrylic snaps down the sides.

Betlin has been adapting the classic look favored by other sports. Its Custom Pinstripe Collection now has jerseys and shorts in solid stripes, two equal stripes, and feathered stripes, which allows them to produce uniforms in more than 380 different color combinations.

Betlin has also introduced two new performance-enhancing fabrics to their ProBrite Basketball line, and will be adding basketball uniforms to their ProFormance lines in 1998. The ProFormance line features professional-quality fabrics at a reasonable low price to maintain the line's accessibility to the high school and youth markets.

Reebok Team Uniforms is introducing three new materials in their basketball line for 1998, as well as bringing in pro satin textured mesh with a bright sheen for jerseys.

Teamwork Team Apparel has four different adult jerseys and two youth jerseys, as well as adult shooting shirts, all made from 100% nylon stretch. Men's and women's jerseys are both reversible. Teamwork also offers three types of shorts, including a reversible model in adult and youth sizes. All are made of "micro mesh" 100% nylon.

Intensity Athletics continues to offer a full line of micromesh shorts and tops in both men's and women's styles made of 100% nylon double ply. Matching shooting shirts, warmup pants, and pullover tops are also available. Intensity's shimmer cloth line features shorts in 7 [inches] and 9 [inches] styles and matching tops in men's and women's styles. Both styles also come in side-panel shorts and curved-panel tops.

And 1, outfitters of Division I programs at Penn, Howard, and Grambling, continues its three lines: collegiate, off-the-court, and team. Collegiate features practice shorts of textured poly mesh, mesh pants with full tricot lining, and embroidered tees in short-sleeve and sleeveless styles.

Off-the-Court offers a complete selection of warmup tops, pants, and shorts in crinkle nylon, jackets in hooded and zip-up styles, and "chill" shorts made of 7 oz. crinkle nylon and textured mesh liner.

The Team line offers complete uniforms in three styles: the Playmaker, which features jerseys and shorts in dazzle with 3-color rib trim; the Franchise, same material in 3-color rib trim and contrasting inserts, and the Money, made of dazzle with pinstriped mesh side panels and 3-color rib trim.

FOOTBALL

Oversize styles are still prominent in the industry, and many college programs are following the NFL's lead in going with throwback styles.

Betlin's three leading lines - ProFormance, ProBrite, and Custom Pinstripe Collection - feature all kinds of football apparel. The ProFormance line, modeled after professional uniforms, sports such in-demand features as longer lengths, covered seam stitching, and numeric sizing. The ProBrite line offers new fabrics, and the Custom Pinstripe Collection features classic styles and throwback uniforms with some new twists and a huge amount of colors and styles.

Champion continues to offer a full line of tees, practice shirts, and windwear in the most in-demand graphics, colors, and styles. The "Heritage" jersey comes in 10 styles, plus a tank and a sleeveless tee. They are made from 100% low-shrunk cotton in polo, ring neck, and V-neck styles.

The matching jersey bottoms come in long short, long pocket short, checkerboard nylon short, and beach short styles.

Graphic T-shirts come in 100% cotton and come in white, navy, black, and grey.

In the windwear department, jackets for coaches, trainers, scouts, and players are available in taffeta crinkle shells with mesh lining in body and taffeta in the sleeves with two-welt pockets and elastic cuffs.

The coach jacket comes in six different color combinations, the trainer and scout jackets come in eight solid colors, and a matching pant comes in a taffeta crinkle with mesh and taffeta lining and seven different color.

Russell offers its "in-stock" football lines in both adult and youth sizes. Came and practice jerseys are available in both medium weight nylon and nylon micro-mesh, while game and practice pants come in heavyweight polyester double-knit with elastic tunnel waists. Scrimmage vests and boxer girdles are also available.

Teamwork Team Apparel has twelve jerseys available in its new line, including adult and youth sizes, game jerseys and scrimmage vests, full and crop length, and in a variety of colors. Game and practice pants are also available that match the line's jerseys, in both adult and youth sizes.

Don Alleson continues to offer football jerseys in both 100% colored nylon tricot mesh and 100% white poly tricot mesh. The matching pants come with a dazzle cloth front, available in colors or in white. Don Alleson also offers practice and scrimmage jerseys, compression shorts, sanitary shorts, and girdles for hip protection.

BASEBALL & SOFTBALL

The trend of the past few years toward old-fashioned looks continues, with pinstripes, sleeveless jerseys, piping, and script still dominating team apparel.

Berlin continues to lead this trend. Classic traditional styles are still the mainstays in uniforms at Betlin, and this year it has added a few new twists. Its 100% nylon pinstripe material is unique, as is the Custom Pinstripe Collection which offers 380 different color combinations in three different patterns: a solid stripe, two equal stripes, or leathered stripes. Both come in adult and youth sizes and are available for baseball and softball. Betlin has also introduced a new fabric into its baseball apparel - a 4-way stretch 15.5 oz. warp knit.

Betlin is also continuing its ProFormance line of uniforms, (currently worn by several Class AAA teams and major university programs) which show off such professional-quality features as longer lengths, covered seam stitching, and numeric sizing. Betlin has been able to continually upgrade the ProFormance lines while keeping its pricing competitive.

Teamwork Team Apparel offers a complete line of baseball and softball jerseys, including 15 different types of jerseys in solid, pinstripe, reverse pinstripe, v-neck, button-down, cotton, nylon, mesh, and cotton/poly styles. It also offers sleeveless jerseys, undershirts, matching solid and pinstripe pants, and coaches and players jackets in fleece. Youth sizes and styles are also available for both boys and girls.

From Russell's "in-stock" lines come baseball and softball apparel in both adult and youth sizes. Button-front baseball jerseys in both sleeved and sleeveless styles come in stretch nylon double-knits, as do the matching game pants, which feature elastic waist bands and belt loops.

V-neck jerseys in both solid and pinstripe colors are also available, along with no-fly rec pants, baseball undershirts, coach's shorts, and platter shorts. For softball, cap sleeve jerseys and softball pants are both new this year, both available in the "in-stock" lines, and both available in adult and youth sizes.

Reebok Team Uniforms is introducing three new materials into its baseball and softball uniform lines, as well as pro satin textured mesh with a bright sheen in its jerseys. Reebok is also bringing out two new lightweight pant materials for baseball and softball: a 100% 14 oz. polyester warp knit material in bleached white and dodger grey and a heavyweight 16 oz. 100% nylon stretch material in bleached white and blue grey. Both lend durability and great looks.

WOMEN'S WEAR

Athletic gear for women continues to brighten the marketplace. Many manufacturers cite the new WNBA and the '96 Summer Olympics for putting the extra glow on women's athletics.

Russell Athletic has responded to the ever-growing needs of female athletes by developing products with greater versatility and sensitivity to price. Its new cotton/lycra sports bra and bike short lead the way with its basic components for layering and pairing providing varied looks. The new line also includes a six-piece package with silhouette option that includes belt-length sleeveless tops and tanks with scooped and V-necks, crossover V-neck cropped T-shirts, ribbed collar cropped T-shirts and a print coordinate short.

Adidas offers a full line of women's wear, including bra tops, shorts, and mini shorts of cotton/spandex with CoolMax/Lycra linings. Tank tops, tights, crop tops, and unitards fill out the line. Adidas also offers cotton/poly crop tanks, mesh jerseys, mesh shorts, mesh skirts quarter-zip tops; 100% cotton sweatshirts, jackets, jerseys, crop T-shirts, and tanks.

Reebok was one of the first manufacturers to recognize the impact of women's athletics on the apparel market. It pioneered a full line of athletic apparel for women, and its leadership in this field continues. It offers a full line of running and cross-training gear, tees, tennis wear, warmups, and wind-breakers. The Reebok line is also unique in offering specifically designed accessories for women (gloves, watches, eyewear, etc.) in softball, cycling, and soccer.

SOCCER

The recent success of Team USA and the first season of Major League Soccer have stimulated great growth in the manufacture of soccer gear.

Umbro, one of the first manufacturers to offer full soccer lines in the U.S., offers a replica of its prestigious international line of jerseys, including replicas of the national team jerseys of England, Ireland, and Scotland. Its Edge jerseys are available in 100% poly with a loose fit, stripped eco eyelet and sunburst design over the right shoulder and sleeve. Its Maracana jersey line comes in 100% polyester 3-D diamond jacquard and vertical stripes on a diamond pattern, and its Santiago jerseys come in solid colors and white collars. All are available with matching shorts.

Adidas, of Germany, has large lines rooted in both the international and MLS games. Home and away replica jerseys, in short sleeve v-necks and 100% polyester, are available in styles worn all over the world, as well as by teams in the MLS. Shorts, training shirts, and warmup pants in matching styles are also available, including youth sizes.

Russell is offering a new shadow mesh soccer fabric designed for comfort and fashion. Both shirts and shorts are made of the soft jersey fabric with a vertical shadow stripe produced by the alternating solid and woven mesh detailing. V-neck striped-trim shirts, striped fashion collar jerseys, two-button placket jerseys, and side entry pocket shorts are all available in this line.

Teamwork Team Apparel offers an adult and youth soccer jersey of 70% poly/30% cotton, available in a dozen different colors with matching shorts in either nylon taffeta or nylon satin dovetail patterns.

Don Alleson also offers soccer gear in adult and youth sizes, including 75/25 poly/cotton jerseys in solid colors and contrasting colors, 10% checkerboard wrap-knit nylon jerseys with v-neck collars in contrasting stripes, plus eight styles of regular and compression shorts, made of 100% nylon taffeta (90% nylon/10% spandex on the compression short) and available in both solid and mesh styles.
COPYRIGHT 1997 Scholastic, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:1997 buyer's guide to team apparel
Author:Nolan, Timothy
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Article Type:Buyers Guide
Date:Oct 1, 1997
Words:3003
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