I Dig Sports
Keeping squash alive at grassroots level is huge for coach Jane Martin
By ANDY WESTON – Squash Mad Correspondent
As a player Jane Martin was one of the best, reaching a career-high world ranking of eight back in the 1990s.
A born and bred Geordie with working class roots, Jane represented England at numerous levels competing at Commonwealth Games, World Cups and World Team Championships while reaching the latter stages of the most high profile individual events on tour.
Her first professional playing contract was signed when she was just 16-years-old when she caught the eye of a club in Gütersloh, Germany. She ended up playing league matches for the club up until her career was cut-short by injury as she was turning 30.
By then Jane had an eye on a coaching career which now spans 18 years – the majority of which has been spent at Bridge of Allan Sports Club (BoA) where she’s head coach.
Naturally she is able to call upon her extensive experiences as a world class player.
Yet she describes herself as “working class through and through” and it’s this grounded upbringing which serves Jane best, shaping her into the popular and successful coach she is today.
“I remain me,” the understated 48-year-old says when discussing her holistic style of coaching. The focus is on the person first, player second.
“When coaching kids, yes I have a professional approach to sessions. But at the end of the day, they can talk to me like a friend.
“I don’t communicate like I’m above them. It’s about having respect, respect for the kids and parents I work with and gaining their trust.
“It works both ways and thankfully I get that back from them. I’m very lucky.
“For me it always goes back to listening to the individual and what the individual wants. Not everyone wants to be the best squash player in the world and there’s a lot of pressure put on kids these days. I’ve seen it so often, especially in other sports, and that’s without the additional pressures of school and just growing up and maturing.
“I can spot if someone is a special talent and I might give them an extra steer, challenge them in different ways. But I never talk along the lines of becoming a professional. I want things to be enjoyable and fun. That’s what will ultimately keep them coming back to the sport.”
Jane continues: “Keeping squash alive at grassroots level is huge for me. To do that, things need to be light-hearted and fun.
“If you push too much from an early age it will put them off the sport and you won’t get the best out of them.
“The rewards I get at Bridge of Allan are seeing my tots grow into adults and seeing how far they have come as a person.
“I want kids to grow up and learn good life skills through playing squash. They can use the sport as a platform to make friends, socialise and stay fit. That’s why focusing on fun, enjoyment and respecting them from an early age is so important for me.”
It’s a coaching philosophy which has served her well and it’s no surprise that many of the players she previously worked with continue to drop into the club just to say hello.
That gives her great satisfaction but it would be remise not to mention the calibre of player she has produced over the years thanks to her coaching style. The current crop include Rowan Niven, Anna Halliday, Kyle Penman, Lucy Murchie, Oliver Hunter and Jamie Cargill – who are all part of the Scottish Squash Junior Excellence Programme.
And her ‘friend first, coach second,’ philosophy has never been more important than during this extended spell off court.
She added: “It has been a tough time mentally for all of us and if squash had been taken away from me when I was 14 or 15 I would really have struggled.
“So I need to understand how the kids are feeling and just be there to listen, whilst making sure they remain active and have a base fitness.
“I think in all sports there’s a worry that youngsters won’t return. But from those I’ve spoken to they are still super-keen and itching to get back on court.”
Pictures courtesy of PSA and Scottish Squash
Manchester City have won their appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) over alleged financial fair play (FFP) violations and are free to play in the Champions League next season, it was announced on Monday.
City were originally banned from European competitions for two seasons but won their appeal to CAS, meaning fifth place in the Premier League will no longer qualify for the Champions League. Manchester United occupy fifth in the table as it stands.
An initial fine of €30 million was also reduced to €10m following Monday's verdict.
A statement from CAS read: "The CAS award emphasized that most of the alleged breaches reported by the Adjudicatory Chamber of the CFCB were either not established or time-barred.
"As the charges with respect to any dishonest concealment of equity funding were clearly more significant violations than obstructing the CFCB's investigations, it was not appropriate to impose a ban on participating in UEFA's club competitions for MCFC's failure to cooperate with the CFCB's investigations alone."
City took their case to CAS on June 8 after they were initially handed a two-year ban from UEFA competition and a €30m fine issued to them by the Adjudicatory Chamber of the Independent Club Financial Control Body (CFCB).
- UCL draw: Man City learn quarterfinal opponents
A Manchester City statement read: "Whilst Manchester City and its legal advisors are yet to review the full ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the Club welcomes the implications of today's ruling as a validation of the Club's position and the body of evidence that it was able to present. The Club wishes to thank the panel members for their diligence and the due process that they administered."
The CFCB found that City "committed serious breaches" of FFP regulations -- which limit the net losses clubs can accrue over a three-year period -- between 2012 and 2016 and failed to cooperate with the subsequent investigation.
It was said that the club overstated "its sponsorship revenue in its accounts and in the break-even information submitted to UEFA between 2012 and 2016."
In response, City claimed the process was "flawed" and said there was "irrefutable evidence" that would lead to them winning an appeal. FFP was introduced by UEFA at the start of the 2011-12 campaign, as a way of stopping clubs falling into financial difficulties by overspending.
Ahead of Monday's verdict, manager Pep Guardiola had also voiced his confidence that City would get the ban overturned.
"The intention is every season to play in the Champions League as best as possible, it's not about Monday," Guardiola said.
"On Monday, I'm so confident because I know and hear the arguments of the club. Next season we will be there and after I will give my opinion and the club will give a statement."
A UEFA statement read: "UEFA takes note of the decision taken by the Court of Arbitration for Sport to reduce the sanction imposed on Manchester City FC by UEFA's independent Club Financial Control Body for alleged breaches of the UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play regulations.
"UEFA notes that the CAS panel found that there was insufficient conclusive evidence to uphold all of the CFCB's conclusions in this specific case and that many of the alleged breaches were time-barred due to the 5 year time period foreseen in the UEFA regulations.
"Over the last few years, Financial Fair Play has played a significant role in protecting clubs and helping them become financially sustainable and UEFA and ECA remain committed to its principles.
"UEFA will be making no further comments on the matter."
City are also still able to compete in this season's Champions League. They hold a 2-1 first-leg lead over Real Madrid in the round of 16, and will play either Juventus or Lyon in the quarterfinals if they progress.
Lockdown came at just the wrong time for Katie Boulter.
Apart from the fact she had just rediscovered some of her best tennis after a long injury lay-off, she found herself with a flatmate instead of a flat-sitter.
But sharing her home unexpectedly with fellow player Laura Robson turned out well - excellent caramel shortbread definitely helped - and the break gave her a chance to work on her strength as well as do some volunteering with the elderly.
"I wouldn't say it's been the best time but I've definitely used it productively - I've tried to make it a positive situation," the 23-year-old told BBC Sport before she competes in her first event since the coronavirus pandemic halted the tennis season.
She is playing in the Progress Tour Women's Championships at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton, a behind-closed-doors event that aims to give British players some competition before the professional tour resumes in August.
'Headsets on court is interesting but would it work on tour?'
Exhibition events during the pandemic have featured some innovative formats and ways to boost fan engagement, including players donning headsets to speak to TV commentators during changeovers at last month's Battle of the Brits men's event.
"I thought it was fresh and interesting, some of the stuff they did, and maybe we can bring it on to the tour," Boulter said.
"But some of it is quite hard to do - having the headsets on court is quite interesting but at the same time when you're really in that match and it's not an exhibition I'm not sure how you're going to react to it."
Some things like the lack of ball kids and line judges may be here for a while as organisers seek to limit the number of people on site at tournaments.
Would Boulter mind having to pick up her own balls at tour events?
"I don't mind doing it at all. It's normal for me to be doing it in practice, I do it every day of my life," she said. "Whatever makes it safe."
Volunteering and cake
Boulter is close to her grandparents and when she was not able to see them she decided to volunteer with Age UK, speaking on the phone with older people who were feeling lonely.
She tells them she's a tennis player but says she is much more interested in hearing about their gardening.
"I try to keep it a little bit away from myself," said Boulter, who also created a competition for youngsters to win a coaching session with her.
When she wasn't doing that, she was exercising at home, building up her physical and mental strength - as well as working off some cake.
"Laura's got really into baking - I'm not sure it's good for me having to eat cakes every single day of the lockdown!" said Boulter, who had originally invited Robson to stay at the flat while she was away at some tournaments before she herself ended up back there too.
"I think it's fair to say I've been on the watt bike a little bit more than usual."
What is the Progress Tour Women's Championships?
The behind-closed-door tournament features women's singles and women's doubles events in a round-robin format.
There are two singles events - the Premier event and Division 1, with eight players competing in each one.
Players are drawn in groups of four for the round-robin stage, with the top two in each qualifying for the semi-finals.
There is a prize money pool of £30,000, with the winner of the Premier singles earning £6,000.
Who is playing?
Three of the top four British singles players are taking part, with world number 14 Johanna Konta absent.
14-16 July - Round-robin stage (starting 11:00 BST)
17-18 July - semi-final and finals
On the eve of the one-year anniversary of last year's extraordinary World Cup final, New Zealand coach Gary Stead has admitted there remains a "numb" feeling about the result which saw England win on boundary countback.
The match was tied across the initial 50 overs after Ben Stokes could only manage a single off the final delivery having hauled England to the brink of victory with an innings that included six runs when the ball deflected off the back of his bat to the boundary - which subsequently emerged as an umpiring error - taking England from needing 9 off 3 to 3 off 2 balls.
"I do think about it a bit, I think everyone has really different emotions around it," Stead said. "The thing that stands out for me is that it's all a bit numb, really, in some ways but enormously proud of the way we played the whole tournament. As a Kiwi and as a supporter of the Blackcaps it was hard to be any more proud of the way they played and fought in that match.
"I think there's a wee bit of hurt from time to time and I guess any Kiwi fan is probably very much in that same boat. There's no bitterness at all, we understood the rules going into the match. It's a hard one because there's some great emotions that came from that tournament as well, but unfortunately it was just that final hurdle we didn't cross. It's something I'm sure will drive the players to keep wanting to get better every day.
"It's gone pretty quick although a lot has happened in the world since then. We've certainly had some unsettling and difficult times. I think back, sometimes it feels like 10 years ago sometimes it feels like one minute ago. It's certainly a match that evoked a lot of high and pretty good emotions around it if you take away that last ball or two."
Asked if he had watched the match back, Stead said: "I haven't watched it ball-by-ball. I know what happened, don't worry. I don't know if I will. Things like the Super Over comes on highlights now and again, but there's only so many times you can watch it because you can't change the result. The close results like that produce the spectacles you want in international cricket and for that you can thank England and the Blackcaps for the way they played that game."
Stead was speaking on the opening day of New Zealand's first winter training camp as the men's and women's teams begin preparations for the new season. New Zealand has so far been successful in their battle against Covid-19 and confidence is high that a full home international season will take place with Stead indicating an early-to-mid November start. "By all accounts, what I'm hearing is that looks highly likely," he said.
Bangladesh, West Indies, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Australia are all set to visit for men's series under the Future Tours Programme although how exactly the season is structured could depend on what series are moved when the postponement of the T20 World Cup is confirmed.
In February and March New Zealand are due to host the Women's 50-over World Cup and it is the women's team who are set to be back in action first with a tour to Australia starting in late September.
The New Zealand players based in Wellington and the South Island will have three camps at Lincoln near Christchurch between now and early September while those based in the rest of the North Island will train at Mount Maunganui.
The Washington Redskins will officially announce Monday morning that they will be changing their nickname, though no new name will be revealed just yet, a source confirmed Sunday night.
It had been widely expected that Washington would change its name, and one source said Saturday night that an announcement of a new name would come soon.
Sports Business Daily, which first reported Monday's official announcement, reported that the new name would not be announced yet because trademark issues are pending.
Last week, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that the franchise would not use any Native American imagery. Washington's logo of an American Indian chief had been designed by a Native American in 1971.
Another source told ESPN that the plan, as of now, is to retain the franchise's use of burgundy and gold colors. Coach Ron Rivera had said the team wanted to include the military in its new name, as well.
The franchise said on July 3 that it would undergo a thorough review of its 87-year-old name that some viewed as offensive. By that point, multiple sources said, team owner Dan Snyder already was engaged in talks with the league about a possible new name. Multiple sources said the name would be changing, but there was nothing official from the team.
Snyder had, for years, resisted any consideration to change the name -- telling USA Today in 2013 to "put it in all caps" that he would never make such a move. Some who have worked for Snyder said they believed he would rather sell the team than use a new name. While it's uncertain what the next name will be, it is one a source close to the situation said Snyder was excited about.
Snyder had owned the rights in the Washington area to any possible expansion by the Arena Football League, and he was expected to name that team the Warriors, even attempting to trademark the name -- a quest he had abandoned.
Snyder and the franchise were under more pressure to change Washington's nickname after the protests against social injustice began following the May death of George Floyd in Minnesota. Within a few weeks after Floyd's death, multiple sources said Snyder had been discussing the name for several weeks with the league.
During that time, a letter signed by 87 investors and shareholders with a total worth of $620 billion was sent to sponsors FedEx, PepsiCo and Nike, asking them to stop doing business with the team unless the name was changed. When that was reported in an Adweek.com story on July 1, multiple people -- including current and former employees -- echoed the same thought: It's over. Most, if not all, were unaware that a possible change was already in the works.
On July 2, FedEx issued a statement saying it had told the team it wanted the name changed. The other sponsors later released statements saying the same. Amazon said it would stop selling Redskins merchandise. Walmart and Target said it would stop selling their gear in stores. And, according to The Washington Post, FedEx said it would remove its signage from the stadium unless the name was changed for the 2021 season.
FedEx signed a 27-year deal for $205 million in 1998. The company's owner and CEO, Fred Smith, has been a minority shareholder in the franchise since 2003. However, according to multiple reports, he and the other minority investors, Dwight Schar and Bob Rothman, want to sell their stakes.
Snyder, his sister and his mother own 60% of the franchise.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Rajon Rondo suffered a "significant" hand injury during practice on Sunday evening, sources told ESPN. Rondo, 34, underwent medical evaluation on his hand and thumb, sources said, and the severity of the injury should be known Monday morning.
The Lakers traveled to Orlando, Florida, on Thursday night for the resumption of the 2019-20 NBA season and practiced for the first time on Saturday.
Rondo, who signed with the Lakers in 2018, missed several weeks during the 2018-19 season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn ligament on his right ring finger.
He is averaging 7.1 points, 5 assists and 3 rebounds per game this season. He has appeared in 48 games for Los Angeles and has started in three.
L.A. is already without starting guard Avery Bradley, who opted out of the season restart because of coronavirus concerns for his family. The Lakers signed JR Smith as Bradley's replacement for the remainder of the season.
SPARTA, Ky. – Entering Sunday’s Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart, rookie Cole Custer had never led a lap in his NASCAR Cup Series career, but that didn’t stop him from leaving Kentucky Speedway with the trophy.
Custer used a stunning four-wide pass on the final lap at the 1.5-mile, D-shaped oval to steal the win from the race’s two dominant drivers, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr, during an exhilarating green-white-checkered finish.
The two-lap sprint was set up by a Matt Kenseth spin in turn four that forced the yellow with seven to go, setting up Harvick as the leader after he and Truex were racing side by side for the top spot moments earlier.
When the green flag waved on lap 266, Custer was sixth, but got a huge shove from behind by Matt DiBenedetto to surge down the backstretch and emerge in fourth exiting the fourth corner.
Meanwhile, Harvick and Truex – still side by side for the top spot – made contact in turn three that slowed their momentum and brought Ryan Blaney into the mix on the very bottom of the race track.
As Blaney cut to the low lane, Custer squeezed to Truex’s outside, making it four-wide across the stripe at the white flag. Moments later, Blaney passed over a drain on the apron that caused his car to break loose, shooting up the track and into the side of Harvick’s Ford.
That caused Truex to swerve momentarily as an evasive maneuver, giving Custer the ability to break free of the trio underneath him and lead uncontested down the backstretch.
From there, Custer drove home to his first win at NASCAR’s top level in just his 20th career start, beating Truex to the finish line by .271 seconds.
Custer became the first rookie to win a Cup Series race in Kentucky Speedway history and the first Cup Series rookie to win in the series since Chris Buescher at Pennsylvania’s Pocono Raceway in 2016.
“We were so good all day. Our car was so good,” said a jubilant Custer. “Obviously, it wasn’t the easiest track to pass on, so we were kind of stuck back there, but that was the best car I’ve driven in my life. Everybody at SHR brought an unbelievable car. Mike (Shiplett, crew chief) and Davin (Restivo, engineer) on the box were unbelievable. Gene (Haas), I can’t stress enough how thankful I am for him taking a shot at me.
“It definitely was not the start of the year that we wanted,” Custer added. “We were way off at some places, but this was an unbelievable car. We put it all together and I just can’t thank everybody enough.”
With his breakthrough win, Custer not only catapulted himself into the playoffs, he also locked himself into Wednesday night’s $1 million NASCAR All-Star Race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
“This (season) has not been easy. You have to adapt as much as you can, and I think we’ve gotten better and better at that,” he added. “It’s just unbelievable. I didn’t think that we were coming here to win. Now, we’ve won … we’re going to be in the All-Star Race. I don’t even have to run the Open!
“Hopefully, I make it to Bristol.”
After the race, Truex lamented the slightest of contact with Harvick on the first lap of the green-white-checkered that he noted ultimately dropped the race win into Custer’s hands.
Still, however, he offered enthusiasm at the excitement of the final three-mile stretch.
“That was fun. I can’t say enough about the guys on this Auto Owners Camry and everybody back at JGR. We went to work this week and tried to kind of get back what we used to do here, so hats off to the guys and James (Small, crew chief) and everybody,” Truex said. “At the end there, we were just a bit unlucky … losing the lead to Blaney on that first restart by a couple thousandths, and then again to the 4 (Harvick) when the caution came out. We were side-by-side. That’s kind of the way these things go sometimes.
“I’m really proud of the effort; we had a super-fast race car and I feel like we’re back in the game now.”
DiBenedetto came from eighth with two to go to finish third, while Harvick hung on for fourth despite heavy damage from the contact with Blaney heading for turn one on the final lap.
“We got a couple good restarts and were in position to win. Made it through turns one and two, and then Martin just misjudged on the backstretch and kind of got into the back of us,” explained Harvick. “I had to check up and next thing I knew, I was four-wide on the front-straightaway and then the 12 hit the drain and went back up the race track.
“Everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing is continuing to bring great cars, though, and congratulations to Cole Custer,” added Harvick of his teammate. “Obviously, last week he was a big part of our win, and to get to victory lane in your rookie year is a big deal. Really happy for Gene (Haas) and everybody at Haas Automation … and especially for Cole, because he works really hard.”
Kurt Busch filled out the top five, followed by Blaney, Christopher Bell, Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski and Tyler Reddick. Almirola won stage one and led a race high 128 laps.
The NASCAR Cup Series next visits Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway Wednesday night for the NASCAR All-Star Race.
Kyle Larson, now racing sprint cars and midgets full time, won the event one year ago.
To view complete race results, advance to the next page.
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – IndyCar’s future was on full display in Sunday’s REV Group Grand Prix presented by AMR at Road America.
It was a battle between some of the newest and youngest drivers in the series. In the end, second-year driver Felix Rosenqvist of Sweden was able to chase down race leader Pato O’Ward of Mexico.
Rosenqvist passed the 21-year-old O’Ward in turn six with two laps to go and went on to claim his first win since Formula E in 2018.
“It’s great for the future of IndyCar,” third-place finisher Alexander Rossi said of the young guns’ performance. “It makes my life difficult. Every weekend you know you will have 12 to 15 very capable cars. That’s why when you win an NTT IndyCar Series race, it’s such a special thing. You know you really had to put everything together and be on your game.
“No surprise. I’ve seen firsthand how quick Colton Herta has been as a teenager coming out of Indy Lights. The fact that Felix and Pato are up there, it’s really no surprise to me.”
The 28-year-old Rossi has firmly established himself as an IndyCar star, but now he has to fend off an even younger and newer group of talent.
Second-year drivers Marcus Ericsson of Sweden and 20-year-old Colton Herta of California rounded out the top-five. Twenty-two-year-old Santino Ferrucci of Connecticut and 23-year-old Alex Palou of Spain were sixth and seventh, respectively.
Youth was showcased throughout the top 10, led by the race winner, who gave team owner Chip Ganassi his fourth-straight win to start the season after 39-year-old Scott Dixon won the first three races of 2020.
“I think we need to continue pushing,” O’Ward said after finishing a disappointing second in a race where he started on the pole and led 43 laps. “We need to be pushing our boundaries, pushing our knowledge to try and learn everything that we can every single lap, every single test, every single race. We need to find everything that we can to improve in every aspect that we can.
“It’s not easy to win an IndyCar race. Everything has to go well. You have to execute perfectly every single thing in out laps, pit stops, you have to manage your tires, your ‘push to pass,’” O’Ward added. “I think the younger generation, we’re showing that the speed is there and we’re starting to learn and we’re giving the veterans a hard time now. We want to keep it up. We want to be mixing up with them up there. The only thing that is going to make us improve is just race knowledge, laps and laps and laps.
“But I think the speed, we have proven it’s there.”
Rosenqvist became a race winner on Sunday. O’Ward showed he is capable of winning a race soon. Rossi is already a star and Herta won two races in his rookie season in 2019.
Ferrucci is rapidly becoming one of IndyCar’s most exciting drivers and Palou is living up to his reputation as one of Europe’s brightest talents.
“I think we’re showing that we’re the most competitive racing championship in the world,” O’Ward said. “Scott took the first three wins, but every top 10 and top five has been different. There is a huge mix of guys, especially when you see in qualifying that from first to 15th is three tenths. You don’t see that anywhere in the world.
“I’m really proud to be representing my team Arrow McLaren SP, my country Mexico, in such a cool championship. I think it’s so special because we race in every single type of racecourse. We have to be strong every year in order for us to be competitive and be contenders in the championship. I think that’s good.”
This day, however, belonged to Rosenqvist. He came close to scoring his first victory last year at Mid-Ohio but finished second to Dixon.
Sunday at Road America, Rosenqvist drove with incredible determination as he chased down O’Ward at the end.
He wasn’t going to be denied.
“I think in IndyCar, right now, the concept, it’s just so tight,” Rosenqvist said. “You look at qualifying. You have the top 15 within three or four tenths. That’s a difference of making a really good lap and an exceptional lap. It’s so little difference.
“If you are on the right side of that, you have a good chance to win that day. If you’re on the wrong side, you start 15th. Maybe you need a strategy to turn it around. It always seems to be a good strategy or two out there, it’s always very open. The formula of the series allows anyone to fight for the win if you have the pace, if you do a good strategy.
“You can’t really count anyone out. You just have to be there when you need to and never give up in the car. I think that’s why you see so many different results, so many different guys up in the front all the time. When you find a flow, just do the same every week. You always have to recharge, work hard, try new things every session.
“It’s hard work being in IndyCar.”
As Rosenqvist discovered Sunday at Road America, it can always be very rewarding, especially if it is winning a race.
“It’s hard to come in as a rookie and win races straight away,” Rosenqvist said. “I think Robert Wickens really showed that in 2018. I had a good season last year, but it was still very up and down. I had a couple of podiums, one pole position. Still every weekend was a big swing.
“I think you need experience. You need to learn the facts, you need to learn how the weekends go, try to find a flow, ups and downs. It probably takes a couple of years, too, before you can master it yourself without being guided by your crew.
“That’s what Dixon does really well, being consistent. He takes a lot of decisions on his own in the car. He can sort of call the race a little bit inside a helmet. Yeah, that’s something the young guns need to learn.”
As two of those younger drivers, Rosenqvist and O’Ward proved on Sunday they are quick learners.
That’s something that should carry them far in their IndyCar Series careers.
When the NBA season resumes later this month in Orlando, Florida, one key element of the game-night experience for both players and fans will be missing -- the arena entry tunnel walk and spotlight on players' fashion.
A new entry protocol finalized at the end of this past week calls for players to "be in uniform and warm-ups when they arrive" to the game, sources told ESPN.
Players will get dressed in full uniform in their respective hotel rooms at the trio of designated resorts at Walt Disney World, then board a team bus for an expected 15-minute drive to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and HP Field House's primary game court.
Photographers will be waiting as they disembark from each team bus, though each player will be outfitted in the same team-issued warm-ups that they'll then take the floor in for typical pregame stretching, layup lines and shooting.
For many players around the league, such as Russell Westbrook, P.J. Tucker, Kyle Kuzma, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, arena entry fashion coverage has become a defining piece of their growing marketing profiles. Oubre and Gilgeous-Alexander both signed unique shoe deals with Converse, with the brand celebrating their off-court style just as much as their rising play.
Westbrook has designed several capsule collections with fashion brands and is a Paris Fashion Week mainstay. Kuzma landed a Puma shoe deal that pays him more annually than his current Lakers salary.
Tucker wears a different rare and coveted sneaker to each game, along with a full ensemble of flashy clothes, jewelry and accessories. The Rockets veteran still plans to flex his endless sneaker game while arriving in the team warm-ups, and will likely carry his game shoes in hand.
"That is crazy," Tucker said with a laugh. "I think that takes away [from] originally what getting dressed was all about. It wasn't even about the tunnel walk, it was more about getting dressed up and going to work. To me, it's like a mindset, getting dressed and getting ready to go to my game. It puts me in the mindset that I'm ready to work and helps me find my focus."
One key element that led to the change, sources told ESPN, is the fact that team locker rooms on site are not equipped with showers. To minimize the chances of players changing in close quarters before and after games at the venue, without showering, the decision was made to instead have them arrive ready to play in order to prioritize sanitization measures and social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic. Players will depart the venue 40 minutes after each game to return to their hotel.
In just the past two seasons, the visibility of the arena entry arrival has exploded. Teams designed elevated layouts and walkways for players. Some franchises parlayed the extra attention into brand partnerships and marketing activations. At one point, the Rockets even had a DJ spinning music alongside the player walkway. Social media accounts dedicated to chronicling outfits in real time on a nightly basis also rose in popularity.
"The fashion aspect of the NBA opened the door to a lot of casual fans. It was the hook for a brand-new audience," said Ian Pierno, creative producer and manager of SLAM's LeagueFits social media account. "It was something dope to look at and something to discuss, even if you don't understand how to calculate PER."
With limited apparel flexibility during the NBA restart, face masks will serve as one of the few opportunities for self-expression en route to games. Some players planned ahead, creating customized masks with social justice messages, personal brand logos or hometown area codes.
The league has already provided all players and team personnel with face coverings as part of their arrival package in Orlando. Ten co-designed NBA x Stance masks with different prints, logo executions and graphics were waiting for players in their hotel rooms. When arriving for games, players will have the option to wear the league-provided masks, their team-issued face coverings or a face covering of their own choosing.
As it stands, the growing trend of pregame off-court style coverage will be more limited in the bubble, one of several adjustments for which players have been preparing.
"Getting dressed at the hotel now will feel like an AAU tournament," Tucker said. "It's AAU Nationals, it's the Nike Super Showcase and one of those [tournaments] that we used to play in back in the day. I'm not feeling it. It just doesn't feel NBA to me, but it is what it is."
"I think the name Davis is something that I try to represent every time I try to step on the floor, my family," he said during a video conference call with reporters Sunday.
The Los Angeles Lakers star's teammate LeBron James revealed over the weekend that he would do the same, in part, because the 29 approved messages, decided upon jointly by the NBA and National Basketball Players Association, were "something that didn't really seriously resonate with my mission."
Davis admitted he was "torn" between going with his last name or one of the messages instead.
"I didn't know what to decide: Should I have a social justice message or should I have my last name there? I just think my last name is something that is very important to me," he said. "Also social justice as well. But just holding my family name and representing the name on the back to go through this process and my name and people who've been with me through my entire career to help me get to this point. While still kind of bringing up things that we can do for social injustice."
As of Wednesday afternoon, 285 of the expected 350 eligible NBA players had picked a social justice message to put on their jerseys, while 17 had opted to continue to use their names, NBPA executive director Michele Roberts told ESPN's The Undefeated.
The suggested messages that were agreed on by the NBPA and the NBA and then made available to players via email, per a source, are: Black Lives Matter; Say Their Names; Vote; I Can't Breathe; Justice; Peace; Equality; Freedom; Enough; Power to the People; Justice Now; Say Her Name; Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can); Liberation; See Us; Hear Us; Respect Us; Love Us; Listen; Listen to Us; Stand Up; Ally; Anti-Racist; I Am A Man; Speak Up; How Many More; Group Economics; Education Reform; and Mentor.
"Some guys chose to, some guys chose not," Davis said. "We'll have a ton of ways to kind of represent what we stand for."