School’s back in session, sports teams have been assigned, and it’s about time for an athlete’s worst nightmare to begin. It’s the stressful battle that consumes your life and keeps you up late at night plotting your next move, the battle of claiming your jersey number before anyone else can.

For some bizarre reason, non-athletes seem to always question the hype about why getting your number is such a big deal. When someone asks you, explain that your number becomes your identity on the field.

Your name no longer exists. If you receive any sass back, remind them that in the majors, players retire their numbers, so don’t go telling any athlete that number isn’t important.

That being said, if rumor has it that your teammate is planning on stealing your number, don’t panic.  Here are a few strategies, that if done correctly, can save you from getting stuck with an unlucky number.

1) Keep it on the down-low, but not too low

The key to getting your number is balancing your temptation to shove it in everyone’s face that you want that number vs. keeping it top secret.

The danger with shouting your number from the rooftop is your teammate may start to think, “Hey, that number would look great on my back too.” That’s the exact opposite of what you want.

Then again, if you don’t get your voice heard someone else can easily take control. Balance, my friend.

2) Be willing to squeeze or swim in the wrong sized uniform

Staples uniforms aren’t perfect. Some uniforms are made for giants and others can barely fit toddlers, but sometimes you have to sacrifice fashion in order to get what you want.

When those uniforms are lined up on the grass the day you’re picking numbers be a hero and say, “Don’t worry everyone! I’ll take one for the team and take that humongous jersey on the end.” You might even get a few “thank yous” and claps.

3) Buy as much Staples apparel with that number on it

Preordering your logo wear is key (or pretending to preorder it). When a teammate is adamant about taking your number pull the traditional “Oops, I already got that number stitched on my soccer bag, sweatpants and every other piece of logo wear I could possibly own. It’d be impossible to switch it.”

While begging to keep your number, tell your teammate how your family’s been watching what they spend and forking out another hundred dollars for new logo wear isn’t something they can do right now. There’s no way your teammate can say no.

However, if these strategies fail and you end up without your number, there’s still hope to steal it back. It’s called the “ultimate bribery”. This one’s risky because you really don’t know what you are getting yourself into. But, let’s face it, you gotta do whatever you can to get that number back. Your method doesn’t matter.

A personal favorite of mine is the classic lugging your teammate’s bags to the field for the rest of the season and beckoning at their every call. Then again, it’s also tempting to request a spare house key for you to do their chores everyday because that one’s bound to work.

Too many different offers can get a bit overwhelming for your teammate though, so stick to one and just make sure you pick the right one.

Essentially, as long as you’re adamant about getting your number and put in the effort, there’s no way you can possibly lose this battle.

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