The request makes Kerry Taylor pause and deeply exhale. “Oh, man,” he says. This is going to take awhile. The Chandler Hamilton senior is explaining his game-day wardrobe.
He begins with a skullcap, moves through the shirts, two or three pairs of socks, gloves, towel, sweatbands (two or four depending on his mood) and an Under Armour shirt. All the colors and configurations are decided the night before.
Sometimes there’s eye black or patches for the face, often with a written phrase or slogan. Some teammates wear tape on their facemask or helmet, arm sleeves or wristbands.
Two minutes later, Taylor is finished talking.
On game days, it takes him 20 minutes to dress, followed by a series of style checks in the mirror.
None of these accessories will give Taylor a football scholarship, allow Hamilton to reach another state title game or beat the early-season heat.
But as long as the colors match, they’re tasteful and don’t draw overt attention to themselves, Huskies coach Steve Belles will let kids be kids.
“They want to play well and feel comfortable,” he said. “They think they’re on stage, and for an hour-and-a-half they kind of are, so you want them to enjoy it.”
More and more East Valley teams, however, are laying down the law.
At age 29, you’d figure Eddy Zubey would sympathize more with today’s teenagers, but the Mesa Westwood coach and former player at national power De La Salle High School in Concord, Calif., has no tolerance for showmanship.
Only Westwood hats are allowed at school on game days. Trainers have to approve neck braces or visors on helmets. No sweatbands, towels, or single-digit jerseys are issued to players.
Before the Warriors boarded the buses to Phoenix Mountain Pointe last week, Zubey gave his team 25 minutes to change into uniforms.
After 30 minutes, he had to shoo players away from the locker room mirrors.
“You’d think as a young coach I’d like that stuff because I’m part of that generation,” Zubey said. “This is a football game, man. We all need to play as a team, and win or lose, we’ll look like a team.”
Young and old share similar sentiments. Chandler Basha senior Neil Treffers doesn’t care what he wears.
More doesn’t mean better.
“Some of the stuff is overdone, it’s ridiculous,” Treffers said. “I don’t have to look good to play good.”
Former Tempe McClintock and Tempe Mountain Pointe coach Karl Kiefer learned etiquette from coach Frank Kush while he played at Arizona State in the 1950s. Times will always change before his mind does.
“That’s where you break the team down,” Kiefer said. “If you’re going to let a guy be an individual, it’ll take away from the team.”
Does the extra baggage help on the field?
An inquiry to a half-dozen East Valley coaches this week came back a resounding “No,” and most fell under the “onefor-all and all-for-one” principle.
If no individual should stand out from a team, would mixing style and substance cause a stir?
“I think it’s fine, as long as it doesn’t hurt your play on Friday nights,” Taylor said. “As long as it’s not going to bother you, go out and have fun.”
A decade ago, Chad DeGrenier wore two wristbands and a towel in high school, college and with the Arena Football League’s Arizona Rattlers.
“I was taught if you’re good enough, they’ll find you,” said DeGrenier, who compared today’s football accessories to baseball players believing a $200 bat will make them supreme hitters.
“Either you can hit the ball or you can’t. If I put (wide receiver) Kyle Watkins in a Tshirt and a pair of cleats, he’d perform just as well.”
Until provoked or otherwise required to change the individualistic ways, Hamilton isn’t about to alter its philosophy, and Taylor isn’t about to alter his elaborate game-day gear.
Deciding between two and four wristbands won’t equate to a college scholarship, but what teenager doesn’t want to look good?
“Everyone should be kind of the same, but everyone should have their own different style,” Taylor said. “As long as you’re wearing team colors — no one’s wearing bright pink or something — or not doing anything to make you play bad, it’s not that big of a deal.”