August 2, 2020
By Grant Lindsley
I remember walking over to the sideline after the last scrimmage at Empire practice on March 11. Everyone pulled out their sneakers and phones and began shouting about who was carpooling with whom when the notifications started popping up: NBA suspends season indefinitely. The league was wise to do so, even if the measure seemed extreme at the time. Now they’re one of the first to resume, and they offer a case study for how to do so effectively. One question among many will be the safety of players, and not just from the virus – also from injury.
Enough time has passed in the suspension of competition to impact fitness. Some athletes have used quarantine to actively recover, improve skills, and raise their game.
But some, lacking opportunity or motivation, almost certainly have not. For example, many NBA players were unable to find a hoop to shoot on for months. The problem was significant enough that Jimmy Butler of the Miami Heat personally purchased regulation-sized baskets to be delivered to each of his teammates. But some lived in apartments without driveways or space to set it up (opportunity). Others didn’t want or care to construct the hoop from the box it arrived in (motivation). The Heat could go deep in the playoffs this year (Bam, Butler, Iggy, Herro, Nunn, Dragic? C’mon), but it’s hard to know how players spent the last four and a half months.
When play resumes, athletes’ varying levels of preparation will be on full display. If they’re out of shape, it probably won’t be immediately apparent. They won’t be heavier. They won’t be bent over sucking wind. Instead, they’ll get injured.
NBA players had four and a half months off. Frisbee players, on the other hand, will have had more than 12.
It’s hard to stay motivated during unexpected time off. Working out has to be fun or reasonable enough on its own without the motivation of game play. Personally, I like to train, and it’s still been hard the longer time off stretches. In March, April, and May, I was running track workouts and doing yoga regularly. Then it got hot. Work picked up. Quarantine dragged. Frisbee seasons went from postponed to canceled. Could I play an ultimate game tomorrow? Probably. But I’d be really sore afterwards, and I’d be at higher risk of injury.
I’ve turned to hiking, tennis, distance running, a little golf, long walks. Sometimes I fill up a trash can with water and do squats with it before watering the plants on my porch. Maybe this is a taste of retirement.
I’m glad it isn’t for two reasons. First, there’s no replacement for the team, its culture, the group competition in the same outfits in front of a crowd, the bus ride back. I’m 31 and most of my peers don’t have anything like an ultimate team in their lives, which makes me that much more grateful to still be playing and that much more motivated to be in shape whenever we can start again. I’m not ready to retire from playing team sports.
The second reason is that I want to personally see ultimate evolve into its most beautiful form, and the next step in that direction, of course, is the universal embrace of tights. Without even considering the facts that tights protect skin from turf burn, or that they have a precedent in football, or that they flatter the physique, consider their impact on preventing injury. They keep muscles warm, decreasing the likelihood of a strain. Many players wear them already, rendering shorts vestigial.
Some say Covid-19 isn’t changing anything; it’s accelerating everything. It’s time to leave para-shorts in the past. Tights are the future. Let’s jump into it. There are many ways to prevent injuries. Every little thing will count.