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What is a Sports Towel?

By Matthew F.
Updated May 23, 2024
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One of the most important types of towels and pieces of equipment for an athlete is the sports towel. Often no more than a simple hand towel or workout towel, it serves many different purposes for many different athletes. With various uses across various different sports, the towel is an essential in nearly any sports bag. Whether for wiping sweat, mud, or other equipment, it is a simple piece that can make the difference to an athlete.

In many sports, a sports towel can simply be used as an accessory in the gym bag. It can wipe sweat from the face and forehead during practice, workouts, and games. Towels are often found draped over the legs of NBA players on the bench to keep their upper legs warm and loose. These towels can be used to wipe the sweat from wet hands, or to allow for a dry grip on a slippery ball in football or basketball.

In the gym, the sports towel, also known as a fitness towel or workout towel, is used to keep the weightlifter and the equipment clean and dry. The sweat that accumulates on the athlete often transfers to weight handles, head rests, benches and seats. The towels are then used to keep the gym clear of sweat for the next user. Thrown in the gym bag, the towel is simply washed and brought back to the gym for next time.

In sports like tennis, the towel is utilized during timeouts, again to keep the face dry and the handles of equipment usable. In golf, the towel is often used to wipe down equipment. A detriment to any golfer, the water, sand, and mud that accumulates on balls and clubs can be extracted with a sports towel. This is often clipped onto the front of the golf bag for ease of use and reliability. In bowling, the sports towel is used to clear the oil from the ball. It can often be seen used with two hands, with the ball raised on the towel, sliding back and forth.

While most often kept in the gym bag or on the bench, the sports towel can be worn on the jersey, as is done by many quarterbacks in the NFL. It can also be used by officials to keep the floor dry, as is common in the NBA. Also, after workouts or playing sports, the sports towel can be transported to the locker room for a shower, depending on its size. It can also be moved to the pool to dry off after a swim.

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Discussion Comments
By Animandel — On Jul 06, 2014

When I work out I used the small towels at my gym. They are cheap towels. I have heard about some of the new microfiber sports towels. They are made to be more absorbent and they don't leave lint on you when you use them. I am considering buying one.

By Feryll — On Jul 05, 2014

@Drentel - I agree that some o the sports towels you buy in the stores are basically a rip off, and they are not worth the money you pay for them. However, there are sports towels now that are made of special kinds of materials. These material can make the towels actually stay cooler than regular towels.

These new materials can be soaked with water and they will stay cool and you can wrap them around your neck when you are resting after a workout, or you can wear them during your workout. They are supposed to keep the body temperature from getting too high. I've only seen the commercials so I can't say for certain how good they are.

By Drentel — On Jul 04, 2014

It's amazing how much more you pay for a towel when it is called a sports towel. I saw some so-called sports towels in the sporting goods store the other day. Like this article says, they were nothing more than a regular bath towel, and some were the sizes of a hand towel and a face cloth.

The price, though, was a lot more than I have ever paid for a towel of any kind. It doesn't make sense. When I was playing sports we usually just wiped off the sweat on our uniforms. If you want a towel for sports, take one from your laundry room and go play.

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