Coaches Sports Philosophy Network

Costume or Uniform?
A recent devotional booklet I used challenged my thoughts on discipleship with a unique illustration. Eunice McGarrahan spoke to the element of discipleship with the contrasting elements of a costume and a uniform. She stated; “A costume is something you put on and pretend that you are what you are wearing. A uniform, on the other hand, reminds you that you are, in fact, what you wear.” The point of the devotional that day was to become more like Christ by ‘putting off’ our old identity and ‘put on’ our new identification as evidenced in transformed living.
With a mind that is continually challenged by and always looking for ways to motivate athletes; I seized on this costume/uniform contrast. With further thought, probing and reference I offer the following statement/question. I am contemplating my current team with this as we begin our season. Is the jersey you are wearing a costume or a uniform?
Merriam Webster defines a costume as ‘clothes that are worn by someone who is trying to look like a different person; the clothes worn by a group of people especially during a particular time in the past.’ Costumes can serve a particular purpose which is usually short term in an imaginary environment and carries no real responsibility. Merriam Webster distinguishes a uniform as ‘apparel that does not vary or change. It’s importance stays the same at all times, in every place for each member that wears such.’ Uniforms are worn with an understanding of long term commitment. Uniforms are for real time, real life situations that require thoughtful responsibilities with serious consequences.

The costumes of Batman, Superman or Iron Man may for a short time cause the individual to believe they can control their environment. They may be convinced they have mega-powers that could be displayed with pseudo strength. When Police, Fire or Military personnel put on a uniform they have very real responsibilities. They must carry these out with strong discerning judgment.
Costumes give the owner a false sense of security without experience. Those observing these people get an inaccurate perception of ability. Those with uniforms have confidence because of secure repetitions. Observers believe a profitable performance will follow.
Costumes come without any granted authority to make diligent decisions. They persuade the wearer they are invincible against all others. Those with uniforms are deemed diligent enough to make an authoritative decision for the benefit of others. They know they are not invincible and just 1 among others.
Costumes tend to draw the person into an imaginary world without responsibility. The end goal is just entertainment that will soon fade. The uniform comes with a serious demand for proper behavior linked to the demands of the environment they are in. The goal is long range benefit for all involved.
I know this challenge breaks down in the professional environment. There are too many athletes that put on a ‘costume’ for the sake of ‘dead presidents’. Even as I watched interviews with the local favorite I heard comments about ‘getting away’, ‘I need a rest’ and ‘it’s time for a vacation’. No reference to disappointment in a poor performance or frustration from a goal unaccomplished. So let me restate my original thought. As a coach do you want your athletes to consider what they wear at game time, even practice as a costume or a uniform? Are your players going out to entertain or to work? Is each member of your team capable enough, secure enough and conscientious enough to overcome the need to display a selfish attitude/decision? Can your player’s feel confident enough in the uniform to understand a commitment to the group purpose; knowing strength is in numbers? Will your team comprehend the seriousness of the uniform and the job to do….or are they content with the silliness of play and be wearing a costume with a short term ending?

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Comment by Joseph Pluth, Jr. on January 11, 2014 at 11:04pm

Some great thoughts here.  Thanks for sharing!

Comment by David Herron on January 7, 2014 at 3:07pm

Thanks Denny, It was a rhetorical offering, am sure any legit coach understands.....perhaps it was a subconscious comment on some experiences I have had, thanks for the opportunity


Comment by Dennis Scott on January 7, 2014 at 1:32pm


Love this thought and how it relates to the seriousness of a commitment to a sports team.  Certainly something that both coaches and athletes need to consider.  Thanks so much for sharing it.  I'm sure it will be very helpful to many. 


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