Do you remember your first uniform?
This week, I invited a few SquadLocker teammates on the podcast for a discussion around a vital part of a team’s identity – uniforms. The panel consisted of SquadLocker’s Marketing Director and former NCAA softball phenom, Stephanie Mirando and the hosts of Past Our Prime (On the Whistle’s sister podcast) – Tip Fairchild and Dan Koppen. Tip spent time in the major leagues as a pitcher in the Astros organization and now serves as SquadLocker’s Director of Sales. Dan’s a two-time Super Bowl champion with the New England Patriots and SquadLocker’s Enterprise Brand Advocate.
During the episode, we uncover multiple similarities between the panelists as they grew up and advanced in their respective sports. Each started young – where their uniforms consisted of a traditional cotton tee that was often oversized and boasting a local business on the front. For Stephanie, this simple tee that didn’t quite fit was the most cherished because it was a physical reminder of where her athletic career began. And somewhere in Tip’s house, there’s a drawer full of team gear from every team he’s played on – from t-ball to pros. His hopes to put his memories on display by creating a quilt with all the uniforms.
The conversation we had was interesting and unexpected. I wanted to share a few of my favorite responses from our roundtable as they resonate for anyone who’s been involved in sports – from players to parents to coaches.
Was there a sense of belong or inclusivity when you had your uniform on?
Each athlete recalls how being part of a team gave them a sense of pride and a little bit of swagger. Donning the uniform meant they were part of an exclusive group that represented something bigger. In high school on game days, each athlete recalled wearing their uniforms to school and enjoyed the feeling of comradery when seeing teammates in the halls. The sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves was exemplified by wearing their team gear off the field.
In certain sports, players are allowed to customize parts of their uniform. What do you think about individuality in team uniforms?
Dan experienced this firsthand playing in the NFL, referring to the NFL’s My Cause My Cleats program which allows players to wear cleats in support of causes they’re passionate about. He believes that a little individuality is good if it’s within the rules and for the right reasons. When it comes to self-expression through on-the-field individuality, Dan explains that everybody’s personalities are different and if it helps a player feel good and they’re getting the job done, then it’s okay to go for it.
Both of our bat-and-ball athletes say that some of the individuality you see in sports can stem from superstition. Steph says, “it may be flashier at the pro levels, but I always had jewelry that I wanted to wear during the game because it was my lucky charm.”
Do you remember the last time you wore or handed in your jersey?
The three panelists shared very similar stories of the last time they handed in their jersey. Most of their organizations recycled uniforms at the end of each season, meaning Tip, Steph, and Dan had to give back their jersey after their last game.
“It doesn’t seem like a big deal in the moment, but looking back on it, I wish there was a way to get it back,” said Steph. Though Dan had to check in his uniform, too, he doesn’t miss it much. “I’m not a collector”, he explained. “And I wouldn’t like the attention of having to show my collection if I did.”
What matters more – the wins or the losses?
Tip and Steph both had intriguing answers to this question that I ask many people on the show.
Steph replied with an answer we haven’t yet heard here at On the Whistle, “it’s the comeback wins.” She goes on to explain that it’s about how “as a team we overcame the deficit and prevailed.” Our Sales Director, Tip, uses his losses as a motivator. “It depends what mood I’m in and what I need to do. If I need to get something done, I go back and remember the pain it was to lose and use that as a motivator. I stack the losses up a lot more but I use the wins as a memory to know how it feels to complete a task.” He uses the feelings he experienced during his time as an athlete to mobilize his determination today.
If you have ever played a sport, it’s likely you remember your uniform. Perhaps you still have it right now, or are still playing in it. I hope you cherish the memories and the moments. What stories could it tell? What memories does it hold for you? There’s a story in every stitch of that fabric.