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In Relay-ted News

This week in Philadelphia thousands of track and field athletes will gather to compete in the Penn Relays, the largest event of its kind in the United States. Since 1895, athletes from across the country and the globe have traveled to southeastern Pennsylvania on the last weekend of April to test their speed and agility among elite competition.

Estimates are that this year’s festivities will bring approximately 17,000 athletes and 115,000 spectators to West Philadelphia.  The action is taking place at the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field, located at 235 S. 33rd Street in University City, Philadelphia.

The event includes competitions for high school students, college students, Olympic hopefuls, and special Olympians.  If you're not able to make the trek to Philly, you can follow the results on twitter @pennrelays.

One of the more popular events in recent years is the USA vs the World relay. This year's will be taking place at 12:30 pm on Saturday and broadcast live on NBCSN. There will be 4 x 100, 4 x 200, and 4 x 400 races, in both male and female divisions
The event attracts a wide variety of participants, including 100 year old Ida Keeling. As the New York Times reports, Ms. Keeling has been running most of her life and is not about to let the century mark slow her down.  Stories like these are what make the event memorable, and no doubt each one of the 17,000 athletes has a unique tale of obstacles and triumphs, all of which will come to a head in their events this weekend.  As those speeding athletes careen around the Franklin Field track this weekend, they may appear from a distance to be little more than blurs of track shorts and singlets, but wise spectators will know the blood, sweat, and tears we can't see are what really propel them. 


Hats for the Hatless

The Washington Post recently reported on a heart warming story about an organization dedicated to getting sports uniforms and equipment to underprivileged children.

Max Levitt founded the Silver Spring, MD area Leveling the Playing Field in 2013.  Levitt said, "I wanted to start something on my own, to hopefully change a systemic problem.” Leveling the Playing Field 
takes donations of gently used sports equipment, uniforms, and caps, and makes them available to groups such as Dynamic Works Program Support, a D.C. area youth sports organization run by Kevin and Tondrea Giles.

Said Mr. Giles: "In my mind I’m saying, ‘God, you are faithful'...This is almost unbelievable. You cannot overstate how much this is needed.”

Youth sports participation has increased in some areas in recent years. However, as Michael S. Rosenwald reports, "There is a concern that the uptick appears limited to children in higher income families." 

He continues, "A 2014 study by the University of Florida showed sports participation rates for children among families earning more than $100,000 per year is 33 percent. For those below $25,000, it's 15 percent."

Many of the life-long lessons imparted by team sports can be lost to young people who don't have these opportunities, and this can in turn create a self-perpetuating cycle, in which the very people who would benefit most from the structured atmosphere of team sports are the people who don't get the chance to participate.

This comes amidst reports that
youth sports participation on the whole is dropping. Rosenwald tells us, "More than 26 million children ages 6 to 17 played team sports in 2014, down nearly 4 percent from 2009, according to a widely cited survey by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association. Total sports played have plummeted by nearly 10 percent."

Many factors are suspected to be behind this trend, including a focus on sport-specialization, increasing economic stratification, and the pull of screen-based entertainments such as tablets, cell phones, and video games. Rosenwald finds much of the fault with the parents of youth sports, who often often pressure their children to focus on winning and competing at ever higher levels, even when this means the young athletes get less satisfaction and ultimately quit sooner.

Still, few dispute the net positive impact sports participation can have on development, and the many parents, coaches, teachers, and administrators involved will continue to strive to give as many kids as possible the best experience they can. The more kids who have the sports team uniforms and equipment they need, the better experiences they will have, and ultimately the more growth their communities will have as a result of their experiences. 


One Steph Back, Two Stephs Forward

The market long dominated by Nike is suddenly in a three way arms race between the Kanye-power of Adidas and the ascendance of alien-cum-basketball player StephenCurry for Under Armour

A story out from ESPN reported on the way Nike botched their wooing of Steph Curry, clearly not valuing him enough as a potential spokesman that they didn't put much into their presentation. As Ethan Sherwood Strauss reports, "In the meeting, according to
Dell, there was never a strong indication that Steph would become a signature athlete with Nike. 'They have certain tiers of athletes,' Dell says. 'They have Kobe, LeBron and Durant, who were their three main guys. If he signed back with them, we're on that second tier.'" 

And that's only part of the story. From recruitment by a low profile teammate, to the fashion sense of his baby daughter Riley Curry playing a key role, Strauss' article is a fascinating read from top to bottom. Under Armour and the shoes and basketball uniforms they sell stand, along with the Golden State Warriors, as entities smart enough to be ready for the opportunity Steph presents, but still very lucky to be the ones benefiting from it. 

As Business Insider reports“Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank said in April that he wants to build a $1 billion basketball brand around Curry."  Whether this represents a real crack in the dominance of Nike or merely a blip, only time will tell. 
With reports out recently on the genius of the silicon valley start up thinking fueling the Warriors rise, it's worth pointing out that nobody but nobody could have predicted the historic run the Warriors are currently on, and the corresponding spike Under Armour sales that would follow the rise of it's leading brand ambassador. 

As the Warriors close in on a record-setting 73 win NBA regular season, sports apparel executives from the big 3 manufacturers are surely already scanning the horizon for the next low risk, high reward signing that can catapult their brand in the public eye. In the mean time, any basketball uniform is going to look good when the player wearing it does stuff like this


Attack of the Advertisements

Word leaked in recent weeks that the power that be in the NBA, specifically commissioner Adam Silver, are considering adding sponsor ads to the basketball uniforms worn during games.

While fans of NASCAR and the
Premier League have gotten used to this sort of thing, the four major American professional sports have thus far resisted the deluge of cash that would follow such a move. 

Anyone paying attention has known for a while this was the way the wind was blowing. Still, that doesn't mean we have to like it. I mean, I love fig newtons as much as the next guy, but it's not as though the NBA is struggling to make ends meet

A Nike Swoosh or Under Armour emblem, identifying the maker of the uniform, is one thing.  The sneakers and basketball jerseys and the status that comes with them are all a part of the culture of the game at this point.  

But the prospect of airlines and mobile carriers advertising on Lebron's chest in the finals will certainly seem foreign to many fans. Weirdly, uniforms have been one place in the sports world where aesthetic considerations were placed before commercial interests. Alas, those days seem to be nearing an end.


By Any Other Name

Americans tend to think of themselves as uniquely troubled when it comes to race relations and few cases exemplify this quite like the controversy swirling around the National Football League's Washington Redskins.  

Founded in 1932 as the Boston Braves, and playing in Washington as the Redskins since 1937, the team name now stands as a hold out from another era. While many other similar names have been changed in the past few decades, current owner Dan Snyder has repeatedly refused to change the name, despite widespread protests and calls that it is culturally insensitive at best and out right racist at worst.  

Some respected reporters, such as Sports Illustrated's Peter King and HBO's Bill Simmons, have even instituted policies to refer to the team as simply "The Washington Professional Football Team" when writing and speaking about them as a small means of protest.

What many Americans may not know, however, is that controversies like this are not unique to the United States.  

The Canadian Football League's Edmonton Eskimos name dates back to the early part of the 20th century, when reporters in Edmonton and rival city Calgary would toss gently insulting nicknames for each other back and forth in the press. The name refers to the indigenous people of the Canadian arctic, now more commonly known as Inuit. 

Edmonton was also home to a hockey team and a baseball team going under the name Eskimos in the past. Still, many Canadians think it's time for a change. As writer Ben Freeland put it, "The name has nothing do with Edmonton. This is traditional Cree territory. We might as well call ourselves the Edmonton Navajo or the Edmonton Aztecs. It's about as close a connection as that."

Only time will ultimately tell about names like these, but there are more than you might expect. According to, there are over 2,128 Native American themed mascots in the United States alone.  Names like this can have an emotional effect when emblazoned across the front of 54 football uniforms in a packed stadium

Team names like the Cleveland
Indians may not be as inherently offensive, but their branding has been redesigned in recent years to keep up with modern sensibilities. 

This bloggers's alma mater, Indiana University of Pennylsvania, was nicknamed the Indians for many years before changing to the Crimson Hawks in 2005.  Our mascot in the later years of the Indians was a bear named Cherokee.  

This is an issue that won't be going away any time soon, as sports fans, owners, and managers grapple with the balancing act between appreciating tradition and being welcoming to fans of all backgrounds.


Camouflage Fastpitch Softball Uniforms: The Tale of the Camo Caper

Local Coach Steve Stevenson reported this week he was unable to start practice on time Thursday because his players were nowhere to be found.  Normally a punctual group, the coach was thoroughly confused and disappointed as the minutes ticked by and still the practice diamond appeared to be empty. 

He couldn't seem to figure out what could be keeping them. Spirits had seemed high earlier in the week when he handed out the team's brand new custom camouflage uniforms from Team Sports Planet

Were they under the bleachers?  Had they all gotten detention? Perhaps a low level out of season hurricane had swept them away? What could it be?

Then, just as he was beginning to wonder what he was going to tell their parents, he noticed a ball moving through the blue sky above the field. As it stopped, he began to make out the figure of a glove with an arm connected to it, and connected to the arm, a softball player!

As his eyes adjusted, he quickly began to see the field was filling up with balls, gloves, and bats, seemingly moving of their own volition. 

Had Coach Steve finally succumbed to mental illness? Had the players been taken under the power of some witch's curse or voodoo spell?


"It must be the CAMO!" he was heard to exclaim as the realization crept over him. It may have looked to passers by as though he were exclaiming to an empty field, another coach driven mad by the pressures of the elite high school fast pitch game. But he was not mad. He was finally beginning to see.

His players were not invisible, nor were they under a spell. They were all so excited about their new uniforms, they had decided to wear them to practice. And the camouflaged look worked so well, the players seemed to blend into the background of the field like so many chameleons evading predators.

After he knew what to look for, his eyes quickly adjusted and a successful practice was had. Let it be a warning to other potential Coach Steves, though: camo is a powerful tool, only to be entrusted to the kind-hearted.

***Team Sports Planet offers camo baseball uniformscamo football uniforms, and camo fastpitch uniforms for players of all shapes and sizes.  Check 'em out or call today at 877 703 2070. 


8 Things You May Not Know About Women in Sports

They're 51 percent of the population, and they're playing more and sports every year, but female athletes don't always get the recognition and attention they deserve. In light of that fact, we've decided to count down some interesting and lesser known facts about women in sports. 

1) Bicycle Handle Bars
Have you ever wondered why men's bicycle's traditionally have horizontal handle bars, while women's bikes have more slanted handle bars? It actually dates back to the early days of bicycles, when some folks considered it improper for women (who wore almost exclusively dresses at the time) to be lifting their legs over their handle bars, because they might expose a bit of their legs or even, heaved forbid, some underwear.  

2) USA Women's Soccer
When the US Women's Soccer team took home the FIFA World Cup
trophy in 2015, it was the highest rated Soccer broadcast in
United States history, beating out the memorable matches of Landon Donovan's team in 2010 and Alexi Lalas in 1994. Upwards of 22 million people watched the end of the match. 

3) Women's Soccer Balls 
The move to use smaller balls for female soccer players was based on research suggesting that "that women’s more slender legs and ankles mean that they have to kick a standard soccer ball at a higher velocity, on average, than men to make the same shot." This can result in increased knee and ankle injuries, which have been shown to decrease with use of a smaller ball. 

4) The All-American Girls Professional Ball League
During World War II, many male baseball players were serving overseas. Phillip Wrigley, the
chewing gum magnate for whom Wrigley Field is named, oversaw the creation of a women's only baseball league. Players such as Mary Baker, Annabelle Lee, and Sophie Kurys are captured in this excellent Life Magazine photo essay.

5) Running and Fertility
Another example of how far we've come, in the early part of the 20th century, women were often banned from marathons because it was believed that running caused infertility. You can read more about the modern scientific understanding of the issues at play here. While there are some things to consider (for men and women) hoping to conceive, the health benefits of regular exercise seem to outweigh any negative side effects. 

6) UConn's Women's Basketball
In 2010, the University of Connecticut Huskies Women's Basketball Team finally lost a game, after winning 90 in a row, breaking the record of 88 games set by
John Wooden's UCLA teams. The streak included back to back undefeated championship seasons, a feat not accomplished in the men's game since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers. 

7) Title IX
Many collegiate sports were available only for male athletes before the passage of the Education Amendments of 1972. One portion of the law, called Title IX or Title Nine, guaranteed that any program receiving federal funding could not discriminate on the basis of gender. Because most collegiate sports receive this type of funding, this really expanded the options available for female athletes all over the country. 

8) Women in the Olympics 
Women were actually not allowed to compete in the first modern Olympic Games in Greece in 1896. The following games, in 1900, featured only 22 female athletes. In recent years, countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia have begun sending women for the first time. According to the New York Times, at the 2012 games in London "About 45 percent of the 10,500 athletes competing [were] women. " 


The Epic of Mo

Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Mo Farah who was very fast. Faster than the other boys. Much faster than a normal person needs to be in the normal course of medium-paced life.

He was so fast, his running took him all the way to the Olympics. And even there, among the fastest of the fastest, this little boy, now a man, was…you guessed it…still the fastest.

So where was he to run now? Now that there was no doubt of his speed, and he had the medals to show for it. Now that he was one of the most decorated athletes in the history of Great Britain. Would he stop running? Would he pick up a new hobby? Something like…I don’t know…skee ball? Or would he continue to run? And if so…where would he run to?

As it happened, we’ve uncovered the secret diary of track & field hero Mo Farah, and as it turns out, he never did stop running. The best part is…his diary has pictures.

Day One: I had heard successful professional athletes are sometimes popular with ladies looking for love, but nobody told me they hunt in packs. These runaway brides weren't quite quick enough to catch me. (That's hardly ideal running gear they're wearing.) Still, I hope they find true love somewhere, someday, and never let it get away. Or, at the very least, if not true love, maybe a bachelor party running a marathon in tuxedos. 

Day Two: While I know the ladies looking for husbands meant well, I can't say the same of the next gentleman I met on my epic journey. As a matter of fact, gentleman may be too strong a word  altogether. 
I believe Mr. Cyclops may have had some ill intent toward me. He sure seemed to have an angry expression on his face. Then again, I'd be angry too if somebody hit me that hard with the ugly stick. Luckily for me, I didn't have to use any guile to outsmart him. I just ran the heck out of there. 

Day Three: The people of Springfield greeted me warmly at first. But one off-handed comment about how the lemonade and flapjacks were
better in Shelbyville, and they turned into an angry mob faster than
you can say "DOH!" I got away from them, but I think they're all still out there somewhere. It makes you wonder if they'll ever stop running. I mean it's been like 30 years. And they haven't really been good at running since season 8 or so...But that's none of my business.

Day Four: Anyway, since I had already crossed over into the cartoon realm, (I promise no performance enhancing drugs were consumed on this journey), I decided to pay the teletubbies a visit. What a nice bunch of...creatures. Really a ton
of fun. I couldn't understand much of their squeak language, but they were super duper friendly. I like to think I wasn't running away from Tinky Winky, Dipsy, and the gang as much as I was running with them...while staying a good deal in front.                                        

Day Five: The tubbies may have been a little touchy-feely for my taste, but I sure missed them when I stopped over in Miami. This gentlemen was the least friendly of the bunch, and he didn't even have the ugly excuse like the Cyclops did. He just kept wanting me to meet his little friend. I thought to myself, he was pretty little already, so how small could his friend possibly be? But I never did get the answer to that riddle, because he started shooting at me. I ran really fast that day, kids. Really, really, really fast. I still don't know what made him so angry. Maybe he got cut from his high school track team? That must be it. Anyway, after that, I decided it was about time to head home and start training for 2016. 


Holiday Round Up

The holiday spirit is in the air, so we wanted to take a quick trip through the sports world to see who is dressing for holiday success, who is showing some spirited generosity, and maybe hand out an imaginary gift or two along the way. 

Much respect and appreciation to Russell Westbrook, who recently paid a hospital visit to one one of his biggest fans, a young man named Janneh who was injured by a
stray bullet in a shooting earlier this year. The incident left him paralyzed from the waist down. Westbrook stopped by to visit for about 30 minutes to help raise the young man's spirits. A shout out is also in order to the folks at NBA reddit, who helped to spread the story and raise money for Janneh and his family. You can read more about Janneh (and donate) here

Westbrook also made headlines for a large, unspecified donation to his alma mater, UCLA. Officials said it was the largest such gift ever given by a former basketball player to the university. For a man who plays with furious intensity on the basketball court, it's nice to see he has a soft spot, or at least a generous one. (Dude is like no percent body fat.)

New York Giants star Wide Receiver Odell Beckham Jr. started out his football Sunday in the spirit of things with these snazzy Christmas sneaks, but turned into a Grinch pretty quickly when opposing defender Josh Norman of the Panthers seemed to take up residence in Beckham's head, and ODB responded with a vicious, suspension-worthy, head to head hit. Then again, when it comes to hits like that, 'tis definitely better to give than it is to receive. 

Reports later in the week suggested that some members of the Panthers team were intentionally trying to intimidate Beckham by swinging bats and looking at him before the game. Nevertheless, Beckham was the only player to be suspended. Barring appeals, he'll have Christmas week off, no doubt with dreams of a playoff spot dancing in his head. 

Also in the NFL, Titans Linebacker Brian Orakpo showed you can be festive and serious at the same time, managing to make an otherwise jolly suit seem downright...intimidating. That's talent right there. 

In the National Basketball Association, the Golden State Warriors are currently steamrolling through the league with a single loss to their names. What to get the team that has everything? The best Christmas gift they could receive would be a few more losses. I mean humility is a virtue, right?  That's one gift Lebron and Company will certainly be trying to deliver during the Cavaliers and Warriors showdown on the 25th. Until then, they'll be singing joyous carols like this one: 

Speaking of Mr. James, here he is with Special Olympic MVP Aaron Miller at the Cavaliers game in Boston earlier this month. Lebron made some time during the game
for the sixteen year old Celtics fan, then finished it off by handing over his game shoes to the young man. It's easy to be cynical about athletes' charitable photo opportunities, but it's not so easy to be cynical about the expression on Aaron Miller's face. Merry Christmas, indeed. 


More Like FUNdraising

When it comes to raising money for a good cause, a little creativity can go a long way. One fantastic tradition that got some attention this month is the Teddy Bear Toss. In Junior and Minor League Hockey Teams throughout North America, there is a holiday time tradition of fans tossing Teddy Bears onto the ice during games. It began with the Kamloop Blazers during the 1993-94 season, but the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League have become some of the most famous participants in recent years. Here's their record breaking at the time Teddy Bear Toss from 2013.

After the home team scores its first goal of the night, the bears are tossed into the rink and then collected by the team to be donated to hospitals and charities so that they can be given to children as Christmas presents. Here's the 2014 edition: 

And in 2015, The Hitmen once again broke their own record for most bears tossed on the ice during a game on December 6th, when fans got 28,825 of the toys out there. Here's the footage of that bear-storm. 

All in all, a pretty fun and creative way to add some excitement and fan participation into the schedule and do a good deed in the process. Let us know what you think about this tradition in the comments and remember, especially this time of year, 'tis better to give than it is to receive.