When a former basketball player, captain of women basketball national team – former Champions of Lithuania and Europe, now employed as the Second coach for Lithuanian national women team, Dalia Kurtinaitienė told me that women seek beauty even during struggles for awards and “put mascaras or other beauty products every time they get on the basketball pitch” – I was sincerely surprised. Or better say, I never thought of this in this way, whereas make-ups and hair dos are not as essential as the game…
„We wear make-up for ourselves. Any woman prepares for work like this, so we do the same – basketball is our job” specifies Dalia.
However, during my visit to training camp of the current Lithuanian national team in Druskininkai and after some chit-chat with players (Sandra Valužyte, Gintare Petronyte, Giedre Paugaite, Aurime Rinkevičiūte and Egle Šulčiūte) opinions were varied. Some girls wear make-up and perk themselves before games; others better refuse any face-do and avoid running make-up marks after sweating. It is much simpler in this way.
And what about clothing? Isn’t it one of the most important matters for any woman?
„Here the problem shows itself“, says Dalia Kurtinaitienė. „We get new sports wear before a new season and earlier ago many sports suits were to be mended or suited to the size of every sportswoman. So, we would engage into fitting and sewing ourselves. Any completely unsuitable suits having no chance of mending were given out to our relatives: there are woman of various sizes and constitutions among them…”
According to the book “Basketball Game – Official Basketball Rules”, published in Lithuania in 1926, book author – famous Lithuanian pilot Steponas Darius revealed his opinion about the importance of clothing in sports: „Suits cannot in any way discomfort the body, especially neck, arms, chest and stomach. Many players abandon their full value in matches because their suits hinder the use of their true powers in game. “
Basketball outfits, just like those of any other sports, experienced evolution. Initially they were less wide or loose. And only later turned into formless suits reminding of large potato bags. The tendencies unfold themselves best in women games…
There are different reasons. Firstly, large global sports wear makers made a “skilful” job and fitted the most simple methods of mass production usually used in manufacturing stage in “cheap costing” Asian countries. Even the elite teams receive “sizeless” suits suitable for sportsmen of approximately three different constitutions. It is much simpler to “get” a suitable size. Some sportsmen receive too large suits, but “no matter”.
The process needed the “prophet” who would demonstrate such clothing and foster others to do the same. The job was most suitable to be served by the legendary Michael Jordan. And as the story goes, anything else is the “technical matter” – so this method gradually turned into „common rule“, and eventually into fashion. Team managers got sick of suiting and changing the clothing, while factories did not even have other sizes. Fashion of outgrown basketball suits was soon “caught” by the black Americans because they constituted the largest numbers of manufacturers and clients.
Eduardo Cota, former ŽALGIRIS player, used to ask us for making suits in two sizes bigger. He would get his already loose player’s shorts down on the hips to reach the middle of the shin on the bottom part. This looked like shorts-breeches… The same process was also repeated by other players of the team – namely Dejuan Collins and Marcus Brown. Probably it’s what they all do in the US.
Former head-coach of the champions of Lithuania and Europe in men basketball, Antanas Sireika remembered his experience as a coach in Russia when one of the famous global sports wear brand dressing the team offered the search of lacking sizes at … stores. Who wouldn’t like to watch the scene with players and coaches “fishing” for the suitable sizes in the shop…?
Can we avoid this?
Means are abundant: modern „high technology“ materials and their processing methods allows making products fully tightening on the body and unshackling sportsmen’s moves (such basketball shirts were used by USA’s, Lithuanian and Chinese men teams as well as Australian, Belorussian and Brazilian women teams in the Beijing Olympic Games). Unfortunately, production of the best clothing is hindered by strict and stiff sporting regulations. For example, current FIBA regulations for basketball shirts, even those for women basketball players, prohibit the wear in other way than stuck into shorts. Manual guidelines prevent manufacturers from showing their technical possibilities and their wish to create a more esthetical image. Good news is that the wind of change can suggest some change in the clothing rules of European women basketball and the transformations are soon to come – promises FIBA Europe.
Many of us consider that production „made to measure“ is possible for the “elite” clothing, but not sports wear. Global manufacturers consider the idea a “closed book” or even an unremarkable stuff. Isn’t it simplicity itself to do mass-making with standard sizes that can be “selected” according to measurements. Process is the same as in general store: you fit cloths one after another (if the assortment exists) until you “catch” your size. This “method” still survives in several countries and others try to choose clothing “by their size” they know from size scale of “Nike” or “Adidas”. Maybe not everybody knows the XL (or other) size is manufactured according to different measurements and can vary from company to company.
Still there are more and more appearing companies, specializing in basketball clothing production made-to-measure. These are usually small, flexible, but ambitious companies looking to the future and designing new generation basketball apparel.
With cooperation of innovative companies, FIBA Europe pursues a second-year project with a goal for women basketball uniqueness and identification by their apparel.
However, difficulties in this respect appear firstly among woman basketball players themselves as well as with the conservative basketball community and certain private benefits. The greatest European women basketball states, especially Russia, still use the principle of a “bulldozer”: they “purchase” best players of the world, mostly from the USA, who dictate game style and “baggy” clothing fashions too. They would always upholded the manlike style of the game and male wear. However, the idea of exceeding our men does not come true and never will… But the influence on other players, especially young ones, is still deep rooted.
The earlier mentioned six Lithuanian national team players each had their opinion regarding basketball clothing. Although they all were strongly positive about the Belarus national women team’s game uniform in Beijing Olympic Games. The good innovation was that game shirts highlighted the body of the athlete, had narrow shoulders which helped during shoot at a basket. Unite, but negative opinion was revealed about elastic body-tight suits of Australian players.
Severe discussion opened up about the width, length and other measures of the shorts. Some players spoke for loose and below-knee shorts, others for shorter and narrower shorts, others for wider and shorter, etc.
The similar opinion regarding Australian wear type was expressed by the famous Russian women national team player Ilona Korstyn on her blog. The major reasons for such discontent – the inconvenient feeling players have in front of the audience. It is a huge psychological issue. She offers finding a compromise satisfying both the players and audience. In my opinion, such clothing compromise was already demonstrated by Belarus national team in Beijing.
I implicate that the satisfaction of women basketball players and their persuasion is a difficult process. I believe European women basketball awaits a long road creating more female-like apparel, embedding women’s basketball position in the minds of basketball community as well as in their understanding what is the most important in basketball clothing for women.