Equipment: A look into athletes’ choices when purchasing gear

May 23, 2019 — by Michael Wong

Annual spendings on sports have risen over the years, but prices do not necessarily dictate value.

Youth sports are a $15 billion industry, with families investing up to 10 percent of their income into their children’s sports, a 2017 Time article found. Nested within this high price are spendings on league fees, training, travel and equipment.

Equipment, however, has high variances in price and are sometimes optional depending on the sport. Buying the newest and most expensive gloves or shoes may not always return the expected value for their price.

In sports such as basketball, the requirements to play are low. For most players, the only necessity is a decent pair of shoes.

“It’s very important to have the right shoes when playing basketball,” senior varsity player Sehjj Dhindsa said. “Each player has a different body type and play style, so it’s important they find the right shoe that fits their foot comfortably and responds well to their movements.”

This means that centers and forwards, who are generally bigger and heavier, require shoes with more cushioning, Dhindsa explained. Most guards, however, are smaller and want to play faster, so they need a light shoe that grips the floor well.

Dhindsa, who played power forward for varsity,  normally wears the Protro 1’s, a $175 signature shoe from Nike and former Los Angeles superstar Kobe Bryant. He says they are durable and have a good grip, a comfortable feel and a lightweight design — all important traits of a good basketball shoe.

For sophomore varsity guard Tyler Chu, finding the right shoe means avoiding the bulkier, classic basketball shoes from the ‘90s. His favorite pairs — the Curry 2’s and UA SC30 Zeros — are both modern high-top shoes from Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry, priced at $130 and $100 respectively.

“I feel like any basketball shoes are OK enough to play in,” Chu said. “A lot of costs are from endorsements and advertisements because it’s from a certain player or brand.”

From his experience, the most expensive shoes are around the same quality level as the cheaper ones. Any pair within the range of $100 to $180, Chu says, is probably good enough.

Additionally, some players opt for accessories, such as compression shorts, leg warmers and knee pads.

“It’s important players always wear what they need every game and practice,” Dhindsa said. “Some of my teammates tell me they feel naked or awkward when they don’t have an item they usually always wear.”

Chu prefers to play with ankle braces, which wrap around the ankle to reduce sprains and injuries.

“When you play basketball, you have to make a lot of cuts and turns,” Chu said. “Having ankle support is important because ankle sprains are a common injury, and [braces] prevent that most of the time.”

However, in sports such as golf, high entry costs are inevitable with the equipment needed. With up to 14 clubs allowed, golf clubs can cost thousands of dollars.

A full bag of clubs consists of a putter, typically selling around $200; several wedges, each around $120; several irons, each around $100 each; and a couple of woods or hybrids, each around $200. Adding in the fact that most people wear gloves and golfing shoes, which have spikes on the bottoms, golf is an expensive sport.

Alternatively, some stores sell beginners’ golf bags, which contain a preset assortion of clubs, pricing around several hundred dollars instead.

“They are pretty effective for both learning and playing,” senior golfer Janelle Jin said.

However, once players improve and play competitively, Jin says investing in the right clubs or custom fitted ones becomes important.

“The more expensive clubs help with backspin, give more control and accuracy over the ball, and cater more to someone's needs. They also feel and sound better when the club hits the ball,” Jin said.

These capabilities are all important once players reach higher levels of competition, where the slightest of misplays can make the difference. In sports like golf, spending on the right equipment is vital to success.

As the dedication and amount families are willing to invest into sports grows, preparation for top athletes will inevitably include everything from private coaches to backyard courts. However, with the amount of leeway available in equipment costs and the fact that expensive gear might not necessarily be better, saving on such spendings is a viable reduction of sport expenses.

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