I’m a blue jeans and sweater kind of guy, but if I have to I can clean myself up pretty well. My wife likes to see me in a sport coat and necktie every once in a while, and I have to admit that a dress shirt, tie, and slacks have a civilizing affect on most men. It’s a wonder how far a close shave and polished shoes can take the man whose usual idea of dressing up is running his hand through his hair while giving his shoes a quick rub across the back of his pants’ legs to take off the dust they’ve accumulated in the back of the closet.

It’s for that reason that I was irritated a few months ago when there was such moaning and gnashing of teeth by a considerable number of National Basketball Association jocks who whined about the new league policy requiring them to wear a jacket and tie in public every so often. The rule was supposedly discriminatory and costly. After all, the typical professional player does have to watch his budget.

I have to admit, if my employer wants to pay me the kind of change those guys get he can require me to wear a clown nose, a used leisure suit and snorkeling flippers to work. I’d be at my desk bright and early, thank you very much. Yes, I do don pressed pants and a button-down dress shirt on most days I go to work, except casual Fridays, of course; no, I don’t think my boss is violating my basic rights as a human being if he asks me to look better at work than I do when I mow my yard.

I’ve always been interested in the pre-game dress of high school basketball teams. When I coached girls basketball years ago it wasn’t a chore to get them to look nice; some of my players even wore skirts, a brave move if you’ve ever sat on a cold bus seat for a long ride home in February.

My junior high guys were a little tougher to convince. I told them that they should always sit together as a team, wear khaki pants, and be sure they had a collared shirt on. One of my more purposely obtuse players swore that I meant “colored,” so he showed up a few times in his finest camouflaged t-shirt.

Anyway, it may be old school, but I see nothing wrong with insisting that our young men and women look as good out of their uniforms as in them, so I asked a few area coaches about their team dress policies.

North Vermillion’s Jim Puckett is always a well-groomed coach himself, so it’s no wonder his team reflects their mentor’s sartorial taste. Puckett’s Falcons wear a team jacket, a tie, dress slacks and dress shoes to every game. “I think it’s important for self-respect and putting forth the correct image when representing our school and community,” Puckett says.

Puckett also believes that “tradition” influenced his insistence on a dress policy. “Some newer-age coaches do not have the same approach to discipline. That’s not to say their athletes have less character or behave poorly, they have just been exposed to more lenient philosophies,” Puckett added.

Shakamak’s Ernie Maesch says his dress code is “pretty open,” but adds that his rules call for his players to “look nice, with no jeans or tennis shoes.” He says, “I would love to have them all in a jacket and a tie if I felt that they could afford it or they already had them, but right now I don’t think that’s the case. I feel that it is important for the players to look nice in representing their school,” Maesch says of his Lakers.

Clay City’s Grant McVay may be one of the area’s younger coaches, but he definitely has an old school approach to his coaching, including dress policies. “The kids wear game shorts and a Clay City Basketball shirt during shoot-around, and they wear black dress pants, belt, shoes, socks, and a purple “Clay City Basketball” polo for the actual game night,” McVay says.

“How a team dresses is a part of the overall impression that they make,” McVay adds. “We want to be a class act, and we want to be something that little kids want to be a part of, and something that older people can respect and be proud of. Additionally, we want to make a positive impression on other schools and administrators.”

McVay also thinks like a parent of a growing child too. His high school coach, Bill Chestnut at Turkey Run, put his players in sports coats, but when McVay went to work for Monrovia’s Chris Sampson, he became convinced that wearing polo shirts was the way to go. “We always looked real sharp at Monrovia,” McVay said, but “… it’s easier to order a polo each year as a kid grows.”

Riverton Parke’s Michael Menser, the youngest of the lot of coaches I spoke with thinks a dress code is a good idea too. “I think that a team looks good when they are all dressed alike. They are easily spotted as a Riverton Parke athlete. I like the concept of ‘Together Everyone Accomplishes More,’ and this [his dress policy] is just another aspect of that.”

Menser went on to say that he doesn’t believe his team has to be in jackets and ties. “When I played we wore travel (athletic) suits. I gave my team the option of travel suits or polos and they chose polos. I’m not old enough to remember when every team wore suits and ties.”

I think the coaches have the right idea. So guys, every once in a while comb your eyebrows, tie a Windsor knot in the old silk tie, take off your ball cap, and put on a pair of socks that match. If we think it can do our teenaged sons some good, it won’t kill us either.

Contact Mike Lunsford by e-mail at hickory913@aol.com or through regular mail C/O the Tribune-Star at PO Box 149, Terre Haute, IN 47808.

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