What If Track and Field Athletes Had Singlet Numbers?

By Kyle Merber

March 13, 2024

If I am a sucker for two things, it’s good sports marketing and beer. The two often go hand in hand, although not in track and field. Fortunately, we can look to women’s hockey for some inspiration about how to get creative.

Molson’s new “See My Name” campaign moves the player’s names on their jerseys from the top to beneath the number, so that they are no longer blocked by hair. Instead, the beer company’s logo will be partially hidden, and in the commercial notes, “Molson is covering our name, so hers can be seen.”

The PWHL players do not get paid all that differently from the majority of track athletes – player salaries mainly range from $35K to $80K. The upstart league is off to a strong beginning with 2.9M Canadians watching the first game on TV, and a recent game between Minnesota and Montreal played to a crowd of over 13,000 fans.

At its peak, more people watch track and field, but there are much stricter limitations on everything, including uniforms, and the willingness of other leagues to innovate and work to bring in new partnership dollars should be emulated. Perhaps in addition to relaxing some overzealous restrictions, track and field could better position itself among women’s pro leagues, which are gaining a lot of steam at the moment. Who else has a perfectly equitable split between participants, viewership, attention, and money?

I digress! Despite the individual nature of the sport, athletes’ uniforms are exactly that… uniform. It’s a missed opportunity to not take advantage of the most unique aspect of the sport to allow some individual expression. How are fans expected to have an allegiance to one athlete vs. another when they all look the same? The easiest way to differentiate and identify the clones wearing whatever this year’s jersey color would be to add numbers to the back.

That thought exercise had me wondering about what numbers the top professionals would add to the back of their uniforms if given the chance to. So I asked them:

- Courtney Wayment: 20 was my grandpa’s baseball and basketball number when he was little and I used it for my soccer and basketball number growing up! Also courtsasport20 😎

- Yared Nuguse: 3 has always been my favorite number and feels right. I don’t have a serious reason, but 3 is the one with the treasure chest.

- Trayvon Bromell: 7 because it represents completion.

- Nikki Hiltz: 95. I’m a big fan of Cars and Lighting McQueen and that’s his race car number.

- Fiona O’Keeffe: 37 is a shortened version of the address of our house growing up and I also like that it’s a prime number. I also just learned that it’s the smallest magic square.

- Ellie Leather: 29! Because May 29th, 1954 was the day my great aunt Diane Leather became the first woman in history to break 5 minutes in the mile and she’s been my inspiration since starting the sport.

- Sinclaire Johnson: 13 because it’s mostly thought to be an unlucky number, but it’s my lucky number because I was born on the 13th.

- Olin Hacker: 2. It was my number in soccer growing up. I don’t know why I picked it initially, but it might have something to do with the lowest numbers being the smallest sizes. I needed the XS.

- Chari Hawkins: 7, a number for each of the events in the Hep. I’ll get lucky #7 while also reminding everyone how many events I have to train for every day.

- Abbe Goldstein: I’d say 215, Philly area rise up! Although I guess that’s too big. I chose my soccer number to be 23 because it was David Beckham’s.

- Eric Holt: 4 since that’s my favorite number. It’s the number of letters in my first and last name.And every time I get a bib that is a 4 or a factorial of it is a good omen.

- Anna Hall: 7! I have it tattoed on my hand. It was my dad’s football number so I picked it in every sport growing up! Plus I do 7 events and want to score 7K.

(Drake would probably say 6, because that’s where he runs with his woes.)

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Kyle Merber

After hanging up his spikes – but never his running shoes – Kyle pivoted to the media side of things, where he shares his enthusiasm, insights, and experiences with subscribers of The Lap Count newsletter, as well as viewers of CITIUS MAG live shows.