Oct 03

Tip of the Month – September

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Coach Monika Says…

What’s up with Teen Hygiene Nowadays? And What the High-Tech Industry is Doing About It

Over the past 2 years, I have noticed an increase among girls, ages 13-16 with hairy armpits, unshaved legs and the refusal to use deodorants. Given the tween age, boys of the same age are not far behind with their personal hygiene – common phenomenon – lack of taking showers, and the stench of BO… displayed by a generation that stands for ‘green ideology and climate change!’ How about BO escaping into the atmosphere? So, what is happening? 

This generation, worried about the world going down in 12 years, is moving about in their natural state – the same generation with the mess in the locker or change rooms, dropping plastic cups, food particles, napkins, etc. on the floor although garbage cans are nearby? 

The topic of hygiene is a somewhat uncomfortable topic for many although it needs to be addressed because it can cause disruption in social surroundings and the training environment. Who wants to partner up with a ‘stinky’ teammate? That first ‘whiff’ means bigger things are on the horizon. Adolescence arrives earlier than one might think. The average age of menstruation for girls is 12, according to Mayo Clinic research, while boys show signs of puberty as early as 10, according to a study from the American Academy of Pediatrics. The first conversation about body hygiene can be a struggle. “Convincing tweens that they ‘smell bad’ is a big challenge for most parents and coaches”, according to Deborah Gilboa, doctor and mother of four boys (cited by Sarah Szczypinski, Seattle Journalist): “that’s because the child’s brain makes that kiddo ignore their own smell in order to pay attention to what’s happening nearby. So when a tween says, ‘I don’t smell anything!’ they are telling the absolute truth.”

Dr. Gilba suggests bringing up the topic early and with ‘good humour’ to avoid temper resistance and personal embarrassment. Make it general, she recommends. By trying to ‘mask’ your comments, even good-natured teasing can feel like an attack to tweens, already dealing with the embarrassment of recent body changes. They will certainly hear about it during social time and with a much stronger language pattern! When having BO conversation, athletes likely laugh, want to walk away or feel uncomfortable, but coaches need to validate those feelings. Coaches can address this issue by discussing the importance of workouts, proper nutrition, sweating, showering routines, and control of BO as part of daily hygiene to stay healthy to train and compete successfully.

Encourage Self-care and Personal Choice

Adolescence is the beginning of athletes’ autonomy, and encouraging those first steps also means encouraging personal choice. Tweens are likely to feel more empowered if they’re allowed to choose their own hygiene products. You may present some good sample products but warn athletes about Internet advertisement, and YouTube videos, usually promoted by professional paid actors and athletes. 

One suggestion is to bring in a healthcare provider or nurse to address these issues, general and then separately for boys and girls. The irony is that society is exposed to all sorts of sexual escapades on TV but is still quite hesitant and also ignorant about the body and its care.

If you’re feeling unsure about your message-delivery skills, incorporate some age-appropriate reading like “Guy Stuff: The Body Book for Boys” and “The Care and Keeping of You” for girls, published by the American Girl company.

Funktionskleidung: Dufte Idee [Functional clothing: A Fragrant idea]

So, if you think that this post is repulsive, here is the newest information from Germany (August 5, 2019). It is not only athletes’ BO that is offensive but also their sweaty/stinky athletic clothing and duffel or sport bags.

…“Trainingsklamotten sollen in Zukunft nicht mehr nach Katzenpipi muffeln, sondern ein dezentes Zitronenaroma verströmen” [workout/training clothing in the future, will no longer smell like ‘cat pee’, rather exude a subtle aroma of lemon]

There you have it! The author (Simon, 2019) cites BO, ‘stinky’ sweats, shorts, soccer and hockey shoes/boots, and sport bags. The question rises: what should a human really smell like? According to Simon, the human being is capable of recognizing about 10,000 different odours but to smell any odour is subjective as to discriminate between aroma, fragrance, and stinky odour. Odour can be measured using the so-called Olf scale (used to measure the strength of a pollution source. … it is defined to quantify the strength of pollution sources, which can be perceived by humans. The perceived air quality is measured in decipol). 

Olf is derived from the estimates of an adult person in sitting position, and measured by testing 1,8 square meters of skin surface, according to the hygiene standard of 0.7, number of showers taken per day, and daily change of underwear. Researchers aim to establish the so-called ‘Riecherkollectiv’ [collective smell] comparing smell intensity of a hiking sock with that of normal smell. Results show that a 12-year old child has 2 Olf, an athlete 30 Olf, five more than a smoker! Interestingly, Koreans, like most Asian people, lack the specific protein molecule, which inhibits BO (due to gene mutation)…they exhibit less BO.

People describing BO use various terms, ranging from ‘rancid’, smelling like goats, chloroform or ammonia.’ On the other hand, some find BO sexy in their partner. While Napoleon was attracted to the BO of his lover Josephine, most people consider it an annoyance nowadays. On the other hand, Sun King Louis XIV took a bath only 2 times throughout his entire life, ‘dabbing’ himself instead with body powder and perfume! Water and bathing was considered unhealthy!

Recently, researchers have attempted to develop odourless shoes, textiles, and athletic bags. Especially popular are ‘magic’ soccer socks, which are said to remain odourless for several days. And…a research team from Spain successfully modified cotton material so training clothes no longer produce a smelly and sweaty odour rather releases a lemony aroma! Sarcasm here: the more sweat the more aromas! So, run through your living room… no air spray needed! Some researchers are even suggesting that smartphone-controlled shoes might provide cooling and ventilation for stinky feet in the near future! So, keep the tech gadgets going!


Simon, V. (2019, August 5). Süddeutsche Zeitung [Süddeutsche News Paper. Dufte Idee Fragrant idea]. High-tech Faser gegen Schweiss [Hightech fiber against sweat]Szczypinski, S. (2019, July 25), Contributing thoughts. Seattle. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2019/07/25/how-talk-tweens-about-body-odor-without-making-it-awkward/

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