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Bird Brown: Equipment just as fun as the sport itself

As a kid, one of my favorite times of the year was that day when my mom would take me to the “PX,” basically a military family version of an early years Walmart, to purchase my new baseball glove.

The new glove smell and feel didn’t last long as my father taught me about Neatsfoot Oil and how to take a brand-new glove and make it fit like you’d worn it for years. But it was the ability to sport the most up-to-date model at my coming tryouts that got me the most excited.

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It wasn’t just the glove. It was the “must-have” Carolina Blue or Maryland Red Converse Chuck Taylor’s for basketball season.

It was that new 10-speed bicycle so that you could ride with the pack. It was the fresh pair of Adidas Sambas for indoor soccer or Adidas World Cup’s or Puma King’s for outdoor play. It was the latest and lightest lacrosse stick on the market.

It was the head band and the wrist bands and the knee high socks with three alternating colored stripes (1970’s version of the leg and arm sleeve).

I’m used to spending money on necessary sports equipment for my sons or even for myself. Our Wolves team had more uniform combinations than you can imagine. We had long sleeve white jerseys with black numbers and short sleeve white jerseys with red numbers. We had black jerseys and red jerseys. White and black shorts and red, white and black socks.

That didn’t include the shoes and the customized name and number etched on the side or the matching team warm-ups and travel bags that the kids had to have.

A few years ago, we spent several hours in a ski shop outfitting our youngest for his newest set of sports equipment that fortunately still fits him today. It really wasn’t as expensive of a trip as I was expecting to endure when we shopped for skis and boots.

It wasn’t even as painful as I expected because the service staff was outstanding, very knowledgeable and very attentive. It was a godsend for someone who knew nothing of what he was doing.

I understand the technological development of sports equipment and the need to upgrade your equipment once in a while. What was good for our oldest in terms of a lacrosse helmet is no longer the safest version on the market. Now there are even requirements for high school athletes that have to get an annual refurbishing of their football or lacrosse helmets.

When it comes to safety, I’m sure we all agree there are not enough precautions taken or money spent on equipment that is to protect our children. I want the top of the line lacrosse helmet and best shin guard available for soccer.

If it saves money on trips to the ER, then I’m all for it.

The cost of the equipment needs consideration. The main reason I stopped playing lacrosse in my early 20’s was because someone stole all of my equipment at a post-game party and my part-time jobs weren’t enough to cover the costs of replacing it all.

Outfitting a youth hockey player as we had to do for our oldest one year is equivalent to the cost of a nice family vacation, so it’s not for everyone.

Not everyone can afford the latest and greatest equipment, and some people are content with what they have. I owned my own set of skis and boots so when we went to buy a new set, I was expecting the worst. I was pleasantly surprised when the cost was about the same as my parents had paid some 30 years ago.

I don’t ski. I used to when I was in high school. But somehow the world got colder so I decided I wouldn’t put myself through the hassle of dealing with cold weather, especially for something that wasn’t a passion for me.

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I only like my weather to be cold one day, on the shortest day of the year, and then I’m done with that and ready to move on to spring-like weather.

I figured that If I’m going to be the one taking our son, I envisioned a lot of nights sitting by the fire in the lodge cheering him on from the comfort of my cozy chair in the lodge.

Because I’m not a skier, I had to rely on a “professional” to let us know what was needed to prepare our youngest for the slopes again this year. The right equipment is essential to being able to participate in your chosen recreational sport but it doesn’t always have to be the most expensive and top-of-the-line brand, just that they are effective and keep our kids safe.

The exciting part of that trip to the PX was not the brand name but rather the fact that it was something new that I didn’t have before.

As singer Herbie Hancock wrote, “It's part of my nature. I get excited when trying out new stuff, whether it be an idea or equipment. It stimulates my juices.”

What’s next?

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