Shirts vs. Skins: the Debate on Proper Track Attire
The track team always finds themselves coated in sweat after practice, but the new reinforcement of long-ignored dress codes has left them even hotter.
When Packer athletes returned to Packer for the start of pre-season in mid-August, they were met with an unanticipated announcement. Darrin Fallick, Director of Packer Athletics and Dean of the Class of 2023, clarified that though the adherence to the dress code had been lax in years prior, athletes would face consequences if they continued to practice shirtless or in just sports bras.
While to Darrin the announcement seemed relatively inconsequential, members of the track team saw it differently, feeling that what may seem like a small change in attire in reality has a large effect on their performance during practice.
“It doesn’t seem like a huge deal, but when you’re running in 90-degree weather like [we do], it’s tough. Especially when you’re not really prepared for it since I had been training the whole summer without a shirt on,” said runner Chaz Saferstein (‘20), who after taking his shirt off post the dress-norm’s enforcement was threatened with removal from the team.
Chaz went on to note how getting too hot, something running shirtless can help minimize, affects him as a runner. “It can really affect your mental psyche, because it all can go to your head. You’re hot, you’re dehydrated, you can’t finish. It has to do with comfortability.”
Darrin, however, sees student frusturation as unwarranted. “I’m not really sure what everyone’s upset about. It’s a dress norm, it’s the same norm that the school follows. All I’ve asked the athletes to do is to wear the same type of clothing that they would wear to school in the athletics domain,” said Darrin, citing the dress-code’s main focus as being aligning with Packer’s dress norms.
What many athletes have begun to question is the fairness of assigning the same dress-norms to two very different situations.
“I feel like it’s a little contradictory to not be able to wear clothes that were designed for your sport to your sport’s practice,” noted Captain of the girls’ cross country team Annabel Barnett (‘20), noting that in professional cross country it is standard for women to run in just their sports bras. “I think that’s the biggest problem with [the dress code]. I shouldn’t be [wearing] the same thing to go to practice or to school because it’s very different. I’m not running in 90-degree weather when I go to school.”
Though Darrin in some regards agrees that it may be more comfortable to practice shirtless, he feels that the potential safety risks of teenagers running shirtless in public spaces trump the comfortability of students. “The issue [is when] the adults who have to supervise the young men and women of Packer are put in an uncomfortable situation. Not because of our kids but because of the public. When we go to a public park to practice, it generates a crowd, or a buzz, or a level of inappropriate comments. It [can] put the coach in a position to defend or protect. To make sure that our student-athletes are not in danger, which can escalate really quickly and I don’t think it’s fair to the coaches. It’s not a part of their job requirement to ward off onlookers.”
Members of the team, however, feel that they have not actually found safety to be an issue, or at least have not had incidents of coaches feeling uncomfortable brought to their attention. And, as Annabel noted, even if unwanted comments were an issue, she’s “been catcalled in sweatpants and a sweatshirt, so [doesn’t] think it always makes that much of a difference.”