Look Good, Play Good!

You may have heard people say, "look good, play good" when talking about team uniforms. Is there any truth to this? Does the way a uniform look affect a team's performance? Surprisingly, I believe it does! Here are a few ways in which uniforms affect performance.

First of all, I won't talk about the functionality of uniforms. Obviously light weight uniforms can help performance, but I just want to talk about the way uniforms look.
  • Confidence: A great looking uniform can give a player confidence, which improves performance. A uniform shouldn't be the main source of confidence for an athlete (it should be past success, preparation, and positive self-talk), but there is something about a good looking uniform that gives athletes confidence, whether it is subconscious or conscious. Everyone feels better about themselves when they look good. A uniform can make you look sleek, fast, strong, tough, and intimidating, which can give you confidence in your ability to play your sport. 
  • Enthusiasm: Perhaps the greatest effect of uniforms comes from the enthusiasm that they can cause. Many athletes get enthusiastic about their uniforms. If they think they are very good looking, they'll be very happy to wear them in games, and these positive emotions greatly improve performance.
  • Self-consciousness: Perhaps the greatest negative effect of uniforms comes from the self-consciousness that they can cause. When an athlete is wearing an ugly uniform that they don't like, they may become self-conscious and worry about what others think about his or her uniform. This self-consciousness is very distracting and greatly hurts performance. However, it is not just ugly uniforms that can cause self-consciousness. A very unique uniform can cause self-consciousness, and even very good looking uniforms can cause self-consciousness. Some people are not comfortable wearing very fashionable clothing because they don't like standing out. To improve performance, make sure you can completely ignore your uniform in games so you can lower self-consciousness and focus entirely on playing your best.
  • Intimidation: Sometimes, a good, tough looking uniform can intimate your opponent. I've once watched a football game where one team came out of the tunnel unexpectedly wearing all black uniforms. My first thought was "Wow they look intimidating. They look good." Perhaps some of the opposing players felt the same way. This could have lowered their confidence, which helps the other team. However, smart athletes should know that a uniform itself doesn't make someone good or intimidating. You should judge a team based on their actual talent, not on how their uniform looks.
  • Last names: Many team uniforms have the last names of the players on the back of the jerseys. While this can give athletes pride in themselves, which can increase motivation, you need to be careful of caring too much about the name on the back of your jersey. Care more for the name on the front of the jersey! This makes you more of a team player. I like teams that don't even put last names on their jerseys. I think it is a tradition that more teams should adopt.
What does this all mean? What should you take away from this. Here is what I suggest: understand the influence uniforms can have, but don't take them too seriously. Mentally tough athletes should be able to play their best in any uniform. If you're dependent on a certain uniform in order to play well, that's not a good thing. However, there's nothing wrong with caring about your uniforms a little bit. If you think a uniform change can help increase your confidence, enthusiasm, and unselfishness; lower your self-consciousness; and make you more intimidating; even if it's just a little bit, then do it! As long as it doesn't waste time or hurt your intrinsic motivation, then why not do it?

Bonus: While I think it's great to have good looking uniforms, I am also a traditionalist when it comes to uniforms. I believe there's great value in wearing the same uniform for many years (and decades) in a row. You can lose this sense of tradition and pride if you're constantly changing your uniform in order to keep up with trends.