Women's Basketball In Europe, Looking Good

25 February 2010

If you look good, you feel good.

That's why according to some women basketball players, paying attention to fashion on the court is hugely important for the sport.

Sweet-shooting center Anastasiya Veremeenko of Belarus thinks so.

"Yes," she said. "I truly agree with this idea.

"Today, women's basketball is almost at the same level of popularity with men's basketball, although they are fundamentally different.

"Spectators are attracted by the show and power elements in men's basketball, while women's basketball is attractive because of the smart game and, of course, with our beauty."

Veremeenko believes the issue of fashion in women's hoops is so crucial that it affects the way she and her teammates play.

"If feminine basketball apparel had appeared a couple of years earlier," she said, "the Belarus national team would have reached the Final Round of a European Championship much sooner."

One look at the photographs Tuta Sportswear took of two Russia internationals last year and you understand what Veremeenko means by beauty.

"Last year, right before the EuroBasket Women (in Latvia), the Russian women's basketball team came to Lithuania for friendly games," Tuta CEO Valentinas Navikauskas said.

"Tuta managed to set up a photo-session with two Russian basketball stars, Ilona Korstin and Marina Karpunina.

"At the beginning, they were a bit skeptical about basketball dresses, but in the end, they took them with enthusiasm and told us that it was exciting."

7. Rebekka Hammon (Europe)
The EuroLeague Women All Star Game features the new Tuta designed uniform.
When It Changed To Baggy Shorts

The "beauty" aspect in women's basketball, or a sense of feminine fashion, all but disappeared a couple of decades ago, according to Navikauskas.

Women hoopsters began to put on men's basketball sportswear.

"They lost all ideas about fashion, style and fit," he said.

In America, women that were inspired by players like Michael Jordan began to wear the kind of baggy shorts that His Airness donned.

Ultimately, the baggy shorts found their way to Europe.

In 2006, something happened that made people sit up and take notice.

FIBA Europe decided to have The Year of Women's Basketball, an initiative to boost the game on the old continent.

Part of the project was to focus on giving the women's game in Europe an identity all it's own, setting it apart from other parts of the world.

The project was a hit.

The Year of Women's Basketball led to increased media exposure.

It successfully transmitted the message that fashion needed to return to the women's game.

Tuta showed up at the EuroLeague Women All-Star Game in Moscow in 2008 and introduced the players to the uniforms.

Serbia's Jelena Milovanovic, who has spent the past couple of years in the EuroLeague Women with Hungarian outfit MKB Euroleasing Sopron, loved the new look, and feel.

"I simply felt comfortable," she said.

"This uniform isn't too tight on my body, which I like so much."

Milovanovic said having fashion in the women's game is imperative.

"Yes," she said, "I agree that women should feel comfortable on the court while they play and also outside the gym.

"And at all times, we should be women!"

Look Good, Play Great

Veremeenko and her Belarus teammates have looked very good on, and off the court the past few years.

The country's top players were talented, yet lacked experience and were also short of self-belief.

In fact, they never played in the Final Round of a EuroBasket Women until 2007 in Chieti, Italy.

Belarus made quite a debut.

They captured a bronze medal to qualify for the 2008 Olympics and last year, they reached the Semi-Finals of the EuroBasket in Latvia.

Veremeenko and Belarus were a real talking point in Italy, and last year in Latvia.

And not just because of their performances in games.

The national team, simply put, looked great.

Belarus star Yelena Leuchanka was so excited about the Tuta sportswear that she gave an interview to and talked about fashion at last year's tournament in Riga.

"I think any woman basketball player wants to remain a woman in any situation," Veremeenko said.

"Therefore, feminine apparel should be continuously improved and developed."

Changing Minds

When Navikauskas looks back at the time when Tuta first held talks with FIBA Europe in 2007, he says he did not expect it to be "such a long process" in terms of converting some people involved in women's basketball to the idea that fashion was important.

"But after a common three-year experience, we can say that the ice has started to melt and things have started to work out," he said.

"The distrust of the project has almost gone."

Tuta Sportswear has done a lot of research.

Navikauskas and his colleague, Linas Šimonis, launched the e-book "The 2 marketing steps each women‘s basketball team should make" before last year's All-Star Game in Paris.

Among the highlights was the fact that in the old days, women's basketball had a far more feminine look.

In the old days, the women even wore dresses.

Navikauskas says that more and more people connected to women's basketball - players, coaches, team managers and fans - share in what he describes as the "new thinking" that calls for more feminine apparel.

Like Milovanovic, Veremeenko wore the Tuta Sportswear uniforms at the all-star event last year in Paris.

She talked about the clothing with as much as she did when discussing her brilliance on the court hitting a 10-foot jumper.

"The close-to-the-body shirts and shorter shorts highlights all the beauty of the body," Veremeenko said.

"Sometimes they even hide some imperfections of the body."

Veremeenko made it clear that while she wants to play well, she also wants to look good and now, that's possible.

"I'm 100% sure about my personal visual appeal!" she said.

"Thanks to Tuta, it is easier to be more attractive to our spectators now."



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