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isplack, high performing black and custom colored eyeblack, designed for the toughest athletes, stays strong on the harshest athletic fields, and wipes clean when the battle is over.  

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Read our blog for the latest isplack news and insights.  Isplack products come in your team colors. Our colored eye black, hair chalk, and pencils are worn by the toughest Pro Athletes and most colorful fans

Shalane Flanagan Makes Marathon History

Becky Wade

By Becky Wade

(Wall Street Journal)

(Wall Street Journal)

There’s been a lot of negativity in the marathon world lately: athletes like Jemima Sumgong, 2016 Olympic marathon champion, testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, and a high-profile American team under serious suspect; more and more casual runners getting caught course-cutting or cheating in other, equally pathetic ways; and the biggest tragedy by a long shot, the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, which claimed the lives of three people and injured at least 264.

Speaking as someone who’s built a career on the marathon, last weekend’s New York City Marathon offered the hope and positivity so many of us needed. When she broke the tape on Sunday, Shalane Flanagan—who was born in Boulder, graduated from the University of North Carolina, and currently trains with the Nike Bowerman Track Club in Portland—ended a 40-year drought for American females. In doing so, she beat Mary Keitany of Kenya (called “the best female marathoner on the planet”) and the rest of the superb international field. Her final five miles were clocked at 5:09, 5:08, 5:11, 5:04, and 5:12. Even for an Olympic medalist, a finish like that, with over 20 miles of racing in her legs, is nothing short of phenomenal. Her 61-second victory confirms that.

(Instagram)

(Instagram)

With her victory, Shalane sent a powerful message to the large contingent of female American distance runners who look up to her: We can do this. We can not only mix it up with, but beat, the East Africans, who for so long have seemed invincible. And the way to do it is with integrity (I have no reason to believe Shalane’s doing anything illegal) and with staying power (she’s 36 years old and has been dedicated to her craft since high school).

Des Linden, another one of the great American females, said it best: “Thank you, Shalane, for giving us something to believe in. Congratulations!”

The Community of Sports

Cooper Nelson

There I was, a plastic disc from which I hung. My hands gripping, the disc moved back and forth like a pendulum as I swung. I looked at my destination... an identical disc that if I really pushed I could touch with my feet.  It was different for my fingers, which seemed much like an unattainable leap.  In my mind, there was a simple question that I was debating… Can I do it?  Am I an American Ninja Warrior in the making?  I put in the work. I had to trust my training.  I leaped for the disc even though my strength was draining. I MADE IT! My hands gripped and kept me from the fall.  But what I heard next was the most amazing thing of all.  “NICE SAVE!” said a voice from my side. It felt great that someone else had been there for my emotional ride. 

American Ninja Warrior is a competition where one person tries to complete a series of challenging climbing obstacles. However, the support and encouragement of others while one competes is a spectacle in itself.  It was my first time competing in any type of ninja event.  I came alone. However, I quickly met other competitors like myself and I felt at home.  I made friends who offered to film my runs.  I met pros that I recognized from the TV show and they wished me luck. I saw fellow ninjas dart down the side of the course rooting for strangers that were competing.  I even heard their cheers of support when I competed.  Unfortunately, even with their support, I failed my first couple runs on the course. The generosity of another ninja offering his extra ticket allowed me to reach my goals and complete the course.

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If it wasn’t for the others around me, I’m not sure I could have completed the course nor had the opportunity to.  I really felt like I was part of a community. As if I belonged there just like any pro.

Like in any sport, support is very important. My support came from other people who wanted to share their passion with me and see me have success.  This is what made my experience better than I could’ve imagined. 

It’s amazing to be a part of a team at isplack that believes in this same idea - Community.  We give the fans a tool to help support their team.  Even if it is something just as simple as spreading the love through the use of color, it’s just another little thing that makes the world of sports an awesome and fun thing to be a part of.

 

Thanks for reading,

Cooper Nelson, isplack Evangelist

 

“Every Time, Every Game”: Notorious 9 Makes isplack Proud

Becky Wade

One of our favorite activities here at isplack is connecting with players and teams that use our product. The idea that we can be a small part of so many lives, be it game day, event day, or endless other creative applications, is exciting and at times humbling. The part we enjoy most is finding those users and teams who are exceeding our expectations with their use of isplack. When we do, we look for ways to share their stories with you, our community. Our hope is that, through them, you’ll find inspiration too.

The story below is just one of many. If you’ve ever wondered what goes through the minds of elite youth baseball players and coaches—some of our biggest heroes—below we offer you a hint of insight.

 

“Every Time, Every Game”: Notorious 9 Makes isplack Proud

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If you saw them play, you might forget that Coach Joe Francisco’s Notorious 9 baseball team is made up of 11-year-olds. Like the pros they aspire to be, they exude focus and confidence from the moment they step onto the field: impeccable uniforms, hard rock warm-up music, and perfectly smeared isplack. The boys—all from Long Island, New York—train at Team Francisco Baseball Academy at Prospect Factory twice a week and play at least two games each weekend, traveling as far as the Dominican Republic to challenge the best teams in the United States and beyond. In Francisco’s words, the boys are “fierce competitors,” “the closest of friends,” and “a hardcore team.” Their dream and his goal for them is to make it on the roster of NCAA Division I and professional baseball teams.

So far, the guys are on track. Since the team formed in 2015, Notorious 9 has won 16 overall league and tournament championships. Now, in its third season, it has accumulated a record of 86-14-4 and earned two national rankings: 5th (11u) by National Youth Baseball Championship, and 10th (11u) by Travel Ball Select. Impressive stats for such a young group—but to Coach Francisco, who played college and then pro ball for the Atlanta Braves, Notorious 9 is just getting started. To learn more about his coaching philosophy, the promising young stars he guides, and of course, his decision to include isplack in the team uniform, I (BW) interviewed Coach Francisco (JF) by phone last week. Here are some highlights from our conversation:

BW: How did you get into coaching?

JF: I’m more of an instructor than a coach. I’ve coached teams in the past and have sent several players to DI schools, but now I just coach this one team because my son’s on it. I primarily run a baseball academy on Long Island. As most youth coaches will tell you, having the opportunity to mold young people into good individuals and players is a privilege.

BW: Did you play baseball?

JF: I played college and then pro ball for the Atlanta Braves. I started at Appalachian State, then graduated from Wagner College. I played three years with the Braves and some independent ball after that.

BW: How would you describe your coaching philosophy?

JF: I treat the kids like they’re men. I try to instill accountability, hard work, and toughness in them. I’m trying to get these kids prepared for the next level. I’m not all warm and squishy. I love all these kids, I give respect and expect it in return, but I’m hard on them. I’m tough on them. This is a really tough game. It’s really about preparing them for what they’re going to be facing from their fiercest competition. In my mind, the worst thing a coach can do is to treat their players like gods and blow smoke. Let them compete, let them have fun. But at the same time, get them ready for high-level play.

BW: How long has Notorious 9 been together?

JF: Two full years and a fall season. They’re a hardcore team. Our goal is to make the kids Division I and pro baseball players. That’s their dream and my goal is to help them to achieve it. We have a very dedicated staff and parent base, and the kids work hard. These are baseball kids. This is what they want to do.

BW: Do they all go to school together? Are they friends?

JF: The team is made up of 10 players from all over Long Island. My academy, Team Francisco Baseball Academy at Prospect Factory, is located right in the middle. They’re 10 great kids: fierce competitors, and they really gelled as a team. They have become the closest of friends. They’re always together. They travel all over. They went to the Dominican Republic two years ago, we were invited to a bunch of big tournaments coming up, and we’ll continue to seek out the best competition, wherever that may be.

BW: How did you find isplack?

JF: I always wore eyeblack when I played. It’s the same tough, hard mentality I’m working to instill in my players. Like warriors putting on their war paint, that’s the same thing with our guys. We wear it every time, every game. Rain, sun, sleet, snow, whatever. The kids love it. They love the act of putting it on. They love to look tough. In all sports, especially baseball, a lot of an athlete’s performance is in his or her head. isplack helps them get into character, like, “Hey, we’re ready for war.” And during the game, it is war. isplack gets them in that right mindset.  

(NOTE: As our very own Trevor Story, shortstop for the Colorado Rockies, put it during his visit to isplack HQ, “I believe that if you look good, you feel good. And when you feel good, you play good.” Sounds similar to Coach Francisco!)

BW: At what point before a game do your players put isplack on, and who applies it?

JF: I do, and I am very OCD about it. It’s three stripes across, smear, and fill. Every player gets the same treatment, together. It’s amazing how it brings focus to the team. It’s a very specific look. The guys get to the game 90 minutes early. Right after they’re done stretching, I’ll line them up and put it on. If it’s a big game, I’ll put it on them right before they run out. I’ve even reapplied some of our competitors’ when I see an inferior product or a poor application.  Everyone deserves to feel and look their best at game time.

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BW: Why did you want isplack to be part of the official Notorious 9 uniform?

JF: The product is fantastic. When it goes on, it goes on like it’s supposed to. It’s not thick but it’s not thin. It’s the perfect consistency. I wouldn’t put the isplack logo on our shirtsleeves if I didn’t believe in it. All of our kids wear Franklin batting gloves because they’re the best. I believe in them, and they’re the best product on the market. isplack is like that.

BW:  How do you get the most out of your players each and every game?

JF:  Many games are won and lost before we even start. A lot of that has to do with the preparation and pre-game rituals. It’s an intimidation factor. We wear all black uniforms and black isplack, and have matching gear, bags, and all that. It’s a tough image. And we want that.

BW: Where are your boys headed this upcoming season and beyond?

JF: It’s hard to say, but the sky’s the limit. Their first year together (9u), they were 11-1 and won a championship. Their second year (10u), they were 80-27-3 and won more championships. They recently finished their third season (11u), with a record of 86-14-4. I have high hopes for each of the players on the team.

BW: Final question: Why is team unity (in look and camaraderie) important to success in baseball?

JF: These kids put in so much work in training that when it comes down to performing on the field, they know they can look to the guy next to them and count on them. They know the guy next to them has got their back no matter what and has been battle-tested. isplack makes them look, feel, and perform like warriors.

 

Coach Francisco: Thank you so much for your time and for including isplack in your team’s uniform. We’re honored to be represented by such a driven and dedicated team, and we wish you the best of luck this season and beyond!

Want to learn more about Coach Francisco and his program? Visit www.teamfrancisco.com and find him on Instagram (@team_francisco) and Twitter (@TeamFrancisco).

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isplack Makes a Splash at the Spartan Race World Championship

Becky Wade

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By Becky Wade

Mud pits, barbed wire, fire jumps, frigid lake dips… sounds like torture, right?

Apparently not! Since 2010, Obstacle Course Racing (OCR)—the umbrella term for competitions such as Spartan Race, Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder, and Savage Race—has shifted from “relative obscurity to the No. 1 mass participation sport in the world.” So big is the movement, in fact, that International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach included OCR in his list of 40 recommended additions to the 2020 Olympic Games.

This past weekend, some of the best OCR athletes in the world gathered in Lake Tahoe, California for the 2017 Reebok Spartan Race World Championship. The course, which is always a gamble, was especially grueling this year: a mountainous 16-mile, 40-obstacle route at high altitude that included elements such as sandbag carries, spear throws, and something called the “Olympus,” a tilted wall that racers must shimmy across while clinging only to small grips, holes, and chains. Did I mention that competitors are punished with 30 burpees—an enormous effort and time drain—each time they fail an obstacle?

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Boulder was well-represented at the Spartan Race World Champs by professional OCR athlete Nicole Mericle, a collegiate distance runner-turned-obstacle-course-racer who’s been on a tear since entering the sport about a year ago. A gritty performer, lifelong runner, and stockpile of strength bundled up in a petite package, Mericle entered the race as a title contender, having recently finished as top American in the 2017 Spartan US Championship Series and won both the 3K and 15K titles at the 2017 US OCR National Championships. But as obstacle course races are known for, this one threw some gnarly twists her way on Saturday.

“This one felt like an exaggeration of any Spartan Race I’ve ever done,” Mericle said just days after the race. After hanging with the leaders for the first three miles, she entered a rough patch that included two failed obstacles (read: 60 burpees) and some heavy carries, her self-described weakness. At that point, Mericle found herself disconnected from the group she felt she belonged with. But true to her nature, she regained her composure and rallied hard to make up ground in the second half of the race. Ultimately, she gutted out a 7th place finish in a time of 3 hours, 34 minutes, and 55 seconds.

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“I was pretty disappointed right after,” Mericle conceded, having gone to Tahoe with the goal of winning. “But then I gained perspective on my progression from last year, and I know that some things you just can’t foresee.” Beyond the competition itself, she got a lot out of the whole event. With upwards of 40 countries represented in the championship, it was the closest that OCR gets to the Olympics (for now). From her fiercest female competitors down to the elite males she blasted by, Mericle was full of praise about the OCR community, calling her peers “really great, really encouraging.”

She’s only been back home in Boulder for a full day, but Mericle has already shifted focus to her next big test: the OCR World Championship in Canada in two weeks. Who knows what elements will stand in her way there. But speaking as her former track teammate, what I do know is that Nicole Mericle should never be counted out. Fueled by last weekend’s challenges, she’s probably rigging up obstacles or barreling up mountain trails this very moment, doing whatever she can to turn weaknesses into assets.

My Turning Point

Becky Wade

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I remember the day the seed was planted.

I was a freshman out on South Boulevard, the official mile repeat spot of the Rice University cross country team, and I was stuck doing the last two reps alone. I’d gone with my coach to scout high schoolers at a race before practice, we’d run a little behind, and I still had two intervals to go when the rest of the girls finished. As they trotted back to campus, Coach Bevan (on his bike) and I made our way back to the start. He gave me a pace to keep in mind, but instructed me to ditch my watch and just settle into a nice, hard rhythm.

So I ran—smoothly, but admittedly a little faster than my prescribed pace. I felt good, I was eager to please, and without a clock, I also wasn’t sure exactly what I was doing. Coach Bevan took my heart rate in between the two miles, didn’t say a whole lot, and let me keep rolling as the last mile progressed.

Afterward, as he wheeled next to me during my cool down, my coach’s excitement was palpable. I’d run much faster than he’d planned, which made me happy. But more telling to him, my recovery rate proved abnormally quick. If I remember correctly, my heart rate dropped below 100 (a general benchmark of recovery) within a minute after finishing my last hard mile. Knowing that I’d come to Rice without much volume or serious training beneath me, my new coach saw in me a wealth of potential. And on our trek back to the training room, he made sure I knew it. I don’t remember his exact words, but I remember how flattered and motivated and empowered they made me feel. If a highly respected coach of almost 30 years believed in me, I figured I could too.

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That was my turning point—the moment my goal changed from making the travel team at Rice to accomplishing much loftier things: NCAA appearances as a team and an individual, school records, All-American honors, maybe even an Olympic Trials berth. And although the transformation began in a moment, it was fortified every day I put in the work and was rewarded with greater challenges and greater opportunities. My path from there was far from linear, with injuries and surgeries and the inevitable slumps. But ten years after that pivotal workout, Coach Bevan and I are still elevating our goals on a regular basis.

 

This is just my story. Anyone who’s stuck with a sport (or any pursuit, for that matter) for more than a few seasons surely has a version of their own. Because belief doesn’t materialize out of nothing. And sometimes a flicker of faith at just the right moment is all that it takes to set a passion ablaze.

How We Eclipsed

Cooper Nelson

By Becky Wade

Before we get ourselves into any trouble here, let us be clear: isplack alone is not eclipse-approved. Among its many virtues, retinal protection and blindness prevention are not included, and we would never recommend extended stretches of sun-staring without filters, glasses, or telescopes.

However, that doesn’t mean that wearing isplack didn’t give us a leg up on mere goggle-wearers during Monday’s epic eclipse—if only for the street cred it gave us at our watching party. It definitely didn’t hurt during our heated games of Corn Hole and Kan-Jam either.

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Football games, marches, and holidays; hunting trips, parties, and eclipses.

There’s a stick for every occasion.

#GetYourColorsOn.

 

First Pitch Blunders

Cooper Nelson

By Becky Wade

Is there anything better than witnessing a truly heroic feat of athleticism?

Last night’s Red Sox game confirmed that every now and then, there is.

The unofficial MVP distinguished himself before the game even began, and all but one person in America absolutely loved it. Overnight, Jordan Leandre, a cancer survivor who was chosen to throw the first pitch, became a hero in more ways than one. (If you missed his moment of stardom, do yourself a favor and catch it here.

In honor of Leandre’s all-star pitch, we went through the archives and compiled a list of our Top 10 First Pitch Blunders. This was no easy task, as there are some truly obscene moments in first pitch history. But it was worth every second of judging and cringing, and we hope that you agree.

#10. 50 Cent: Confirmation that just because you can rap doesn’t mean you can pitch.

#9. Carl Lewis: For such a phenomenal athlete… wow. At least he redeemed himself on his second try.

#8. Jordan Leandre: The man of the hour.

#7. Michael Jordan: This wouldn’t have been that remarkable had the man not played pro baseball. I’m confused.

#6. Miss Texas (2016): Unfortunately, not the worst of the Miss Texas pitches.

#5. Carly Rae Jepsen: Had the ball been a shot put, it wouldn’t have been half bad.

#4. Mark Mallory: I don’t expect all mayors to be good at baseball, but this was truly astounding.

#3. Mariah Carey: What I want to know is if she actually tried.

#2. The Go-Go’s: Who thought this was a good idea? And why did that one lady throw up her arms in victory?

#1. Miss Texas (2014): Are we bowling here, or pitching?

 

Did we miss one? We beg you to let us know.

Sometimes life throws you perfect pitches. Other times it throws you curveballs. And every once in a while, it throws you an abomination of a first pitch. Thank you, Jordan Leandre and colleagues, for giving us some serious entertainment and instant confidence boosters. We hope we have reason to update our list again and again.

From USA Today

From USA Today

Little League World Series Kicks Off!

Cooper Nelson

The South Korea Little League team celebrating their 2014 World Series Title win.

The South Korea Little League team celebrating their 2014 World Series Title win.

Remember back to the good ole days when you were a kid and you and your friends tore up the sandlot in Little League Baseball/Softball? I certainly don’t because I wasn’t very good, but for many little league players all around the world, the time spent in the sandlot has finally paid off. The dream to make it to the Little League World Series has come true today!

It has been a long and arduous journey for these 11-13 yr olds.  They had to play their way through their state and then regional tournaments.  The teams standing have emerged as the best in their region and want nothing more than to be the best in the world. Hundreds of Little League players are bidding on their claim to fame with the support of their friends and family in this 71st Little League World Series at Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania Little League team celebrating a win from the 2015 World Series.

The Pennsylvania Little League team celebrating a win from the 2015 World Series.

Representing the US, we have groups from the Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Northwest, Southeast, Southwest and West. There is also the international teams of the Asia-Pacific region , Australia, Canada, Caribbean region, Europe-Africa region, Japan, Latin America region and Mexico. 

We at isplack wish all the teams good luck in their quest for success!

Get Your Colors On Little League,

Cooper Nelson, isplack Evangelist