I recently went to my first high school basketball game in Quincy, and throughout the game, I kept asking: Why do the players wipe their hands on the bottom of their shoes? It seemed like they were doing it constantly.
Both of Quincy’s high school coaches — Sean Taylor at Quincy High School and Bob Sheffield at Quincy Notre Dame — agreed that most of the time, the players are simply wiping dust off the bottom of their shoes to prevent them from slipping on the court.
Some of them may spit into their before wiping their feet. Some may simply want to dry their hands like a baseball player who grabs a handful of dirt before stepping into the batter’s box. Some may just do it as a nervous habit.
“Some of them like to get a little grit on their fingers if their hands are sweaty,” Sheffield said.
“This has been happening as long as I can remember,” Taylor said. “I think it also turns into a habit.”
Many teams have portable mats with sticky sheets of plastic that players often wipe their feet on when they go to the scorer’s table to check into the game.
Taylor said his team once tried a product named Court Grip, which was endorsed by Dwyane Wade of the Miami Hear and designed to enhance traction on all hardwood courts. According to a promotional ad for the product on the Foot Locker.com website, players would use a microfiber applicator to put a substance on the bottom of their shoes, “instantly reducing slippage while allowing them to make quicker, more explosive cuts.”
“I think it made it worse,” Taylor said.
Sheffield said that when he played in high school, he had simple method to help with traction.
“We spit on the floor and wiped our feet, way back when,” he said with a laugh. “We don’t allow them to do that (at Quincy Notre Dame) anymore.”