Guest Column - November 2015
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Sports Surfaces

The Surface Matters

By Stefanie Fee

It is every athlete's unsung hero, when it comes to his or her performance. It is every coach's unnoticed champion for their players and every parent's guardian angel for their kids. It's every athletic director's secret benefactor for their institution, and every gym owner's unnoticed gem for their customers.

No matter where you find yourself on the spectrum of the sports and fitness industry, everyone can agree that the surface, and what lies beneath it, matters. Although fitness surfacing and underlayments, especially those made with performance rubber, are often unnoticed, it is critical that the bar is continually raised in what we should expect from them. The question must be asked, "Can a floor do more?"

Can a floor do more for the athlete? Yes. All athletes, at any level of the game, would agree that performance is paramount. As the foot interacts with the ground, there is a moment of impact in which the surface can either inhibit or enhance the athlete's performance. This moment comes down to the surface's ability to perform ergonomically by providing the ideal amount of force reduction and energy restitution. The innovative technology that is used to manufacture flooring products today results in ideal surfaces that allow athletes to jump higher, land softer, run faster and improve their overall performance.

Can a floor do more for the coach? Yes. Nothing makes a coach happier than having a full, healthy, well-trained squad of players. More time spent on the field practicing places the team in a better position to perform in the game. But how do you keep them on the field and out of the athletic training room? The surface and underlayment, especially those that use performance rubber, play an integral part in easing joint and muscle strains and preventing injuries. By lessening the user's physical wear and tear in the gym and on the field, the surface can allow players to do what they love longer. Not to mention, the comfort that performance rubber can provide underfoot is also a win for coaches, who stand for hours during long practices.

Can a floor do more for the parent? Yes. A common occurrence in the stands of sporting events is parents wincing and cringing when a player collides with the ground. For a moment of breathtaking silence, everyone replays how intensely the athlete just hit their head against the ground, and then they anxiously wait for him or her to stand up again. Who protects the athlete on the field when the parent can't? It is the underlayment that can reduce the amount of impactful force that their athlete's body or head makes with the ground. The surface, and what lies beneath it, can dictate the difference between a concussion and just another hard tackle in the game.

Can a floor do more for the athletic director? Yes. With all the obligations and responsibilities that come along with directing athletics, it is important that the AD's decisions are valued and worthwhile. Creating aesthetic appeal is an obvious must-have when choosing which performance surface to install, but shouldn't it also boast the pride of the institution with energetic school colors and images? Durability is another necessity, but the surface should also have the ability to maintain the life of your equipment in the training facility, as it endures a constant pounding day in and day out. Sustainable choices add credibility to every institution, and the same standards can be upheld by using a performance rubber surface, made from 90 percent recycled material, in all athletic surfaces and underlayments.

Can a floor do more for the gym owner? Yes. The foundation of every mission statement in gyms across America is a commitment to empowering all members to be the best version of themselves, while providing quality gym experiences that keep members coming back.

Customer satisfaction does not only rely heavily on the visible features gyms provide, such as innovative machines, appealing aesthetics, cleanliness and great customer service. In fact, most membership fulfillment comes from the often overlooked, behind-the-scenes extra mile that gyms travel to support their customers. Nothing says, "We support you, from the soles of your feet to the top of your head," more than quality gym surfacing. It's pretty easy to make a gym floor look attractive, but it's the performance the surface delivers that truly matters.

When a member is interested in signing up for your gym, they aren't going to ask questions like, "Can you please share the slip-resistant properties of your flooring?" "What is the thickness and critical fall height rating?" "Can you tell me if I'll be able to clearly hear the fitness instructor with the basketball courts sitting just above the classroom?" But, in reality, these details matter. They help to form the foundation your mission statement stands on, and should be addressed for your members.

Investing in quality surfaces that provide safety, ergonomics, and good acoustics through shock and sound absorption is critical.

Simply put, a floor can do more. Yes!

Working with Ecore part-time, Stefanie Fee also plays on the USA Field Hockey Team. She seeks to be an ambassador for safety in sport through performance surfaces and win a Gold medal at the Olympics in 2016.