HomeSportA Helmet Shortage Is Hitting High School Football Across the Country

A Helmet Shortage Is Hitting High School Football Across the Country

CLEVELAND — Glen Wright, a whisper of a receiver and security at Collinwood Excessive Faculty, arrived for final week’s recreation with a helmet so new, the sticker value was nonetheless hooked up: $399.99, plus tax.

Wright, a 17-year-old junior, stated he referred to as a sporting items retailer searching for a helmet within the dimension that match him: youth additional giant.

“They solely had one left,” he stated.

His scramble to discover a helmet mirrored what coaches and athletic administrators throughout the nation say has been a scarcity of helmets — and in addition, to some extent, of shoulder pads and uniforms — for highschool, junior excessive and center faculty soccer groups. The shortage affected preseason exercises and has continued into the common season. Some headgear, when it may be discovered, has practically doubled or tripled in value on the secondary market.

“It’s coast to coast,” stated Doug Samuels, the top coach at Comstock Park Excessive Faculty in Michigan, who flagged the issue in a June column for FootballScoop, an internet supply of teaching information. The shortfall, he stated in an interview, has pressured coaches to confront unfamiliar questions like, who’s liable if two gamers share a helmet and one will get a concussion as a result of the chin strap was not correctly adjusted?

Producers attribute the tools scarcity largely to Covid-related points that many industries proceed to face — kinks within the provide chain, transportation slowdowns and an absence of staff. The disruption has occurred, coaches and suppliers say, whereas demand has elevated as extra college students return to soccer after two seasons unsettled by the pandemic.

“It’s form of an ideal storm,” stated Ron Dowd, the athletic director at Walpole Excessive Faculty in Massachusetts.

Riddell, a sports activities tools firm primarily based in Illinois, has about 70 % of the market share for highschool helmets and 60-plus % for youth helmets. In late July, Riddell stated it might fulfill pre-existing orders — which have been above prepandemic ranges — however would now not settle for new orders for the 2022 season, with some exceptions.

Dan Arment, Riddell’s president and chief government, stated in an interview that the corporate anticipated to clear its backlog this week and would quickly start taking orders for the 2023 season. “We all know there are challenges on the market, we all know that not all of our clients are utterly glad, however we actually really feel we have now been a part of the answer to this concern,” he stated.

Maybe no highschool workforce has been thrown for a loss fairly just like the Collinwood Railroaders, who play within the Cleveland Metropolitan Faculty District and put on a number of manufacturers of headgear. Collinwood’s helmets, despatched to be refurbished within the low season, didn’t arrive till two days earlier than the workforce’s scheduled season opener on Aug. 19, Coach Greg Wheeler stated.

Having been unable to carry practices in full pads or scrimmages in the course of the preseason, and going through a compulsory acclimation interval for full-contact exercises, Wheeler canceled the opener and the following week’s recreation. For the protection of his gamers, Wheeler stated, “we thought it finest to not play.”

The Nationwide Federation of State Excessive Faculty Associations stated it knew of no different canceled video games. However coaches and athletic administrators have needed to improvise to maintain their gamers correctly outfitted.

Many faculties have borrowed spare helmets from space groups or swapped helmets with rivals who wanted a selected dimension. Some coaches have scoured meager cabinets at sporting items shops. Others have visited {hardware} shops to make minor fixes to their workforce’s headgear.

On Aug. 23, Isiah Younger, the coach at College Preparatory Constitution Faculty for Younger Males in Rochester, N.Y., put out a plea on Twitter: “With the nationwide helmet scarcity and our elevated numbers, we’re in want of 3XL helmets for this fall! If anybody has any they’ll spare (no matter colour) it might be significantly appreciated!”

Younger stated in an interview that the College of Rochester lent his workforce one extra-large helmet and that he was nonetheless trying to find two others. Whereas College Prep’s varsity workforce was totally geared up, he stated, two junior varsity gamers have been sharing a helmet at apply and 7 or eight gamers on the center faculty degree have been restricted to noncontact drills as a result of they didn’t have headgear.

“We’ve by no means had this many youngsters come out for soccer,” Younger stated. “The helmet concern has put us in fairly a predicament.”

The life expectancy of a highschool helmet is 10 years. Helmets are reconditioned by the producer yearly or two. In prepandemic seasons, coaches stated, they may ship their helmets to be refurbished within the spring and have them obtainable for fall camp. A brand new helmet wanted in the course of the season may arrive the following day. Not as of late.

As its third recreation approached final Friday, Coatesville Space Senior Excessive Faculty, a Pennsylvania energy outdoors Philadelphia, was nonetheless ready for 4 new helmets it had ordered in March, Coach Matt Ortega stated. He learn to a reporter a textual content he had acquired from his Riddell consultant Aug. 2: “Our suppliers can’t sustain with the demand. As we get components in every week, we’re filling as many orders as doable. Again in early June, our backlog was 202,000 helmets.”

When Ortega searched on-line in early August for 4 or 5 medium-size helmets, the asking value was $480, in contrast with the $275 the varsity often paid.

“I wasn’t paying that value,” Ortega stated. Some helmets are actually going for greater than $900 on-line, a prohibitive value for highschool athletic budgets.

At Walpole Excessive Faculty, a cargo of 25 new helmets arrived final Tuesday, three days earlier than the season opener, Dowd, the athletic director, stated. If 15 to twenty gamers didn’t personal their very own helmets, Dowd stated, “we’d have had some critical issues.”

Robert Moreno, the athletic director and highschool coach for the London Unbiased Faculty District in Corpus Christi, Texas, drove two hours to San Antonio in August to purchase three pairs of shoulder pads for center faculty gamers. And 7 varsity gamers who nonetheless had their self-purchased helmets from center faculty offered them to households of present center faculty gamers for $100 apiece, Moreno stated — far decrease than the $350 they may have acquired on-line.

The helmets have been “wolfed up,” Moreno stated, including that curiosity was so excessive, he drew names in a lottery.

At Collinwood Excessive Faculty in Cleveland, the disruption to preseason and the cancellation of two video games had been deflating, stated Jacob Brown, 17, the workforce’s senior quarterback. When the Railroaders lastly opened the season, on Sept. 2, they misplaced, 60-0. “It takes the enjoyment out of it,” Brown stated. “A helmet scarcity was by no means a thought.”

Wheeler, Collinwood’s coach, stated he was glad a number of of his gamers had bought their very own helmets. Together with his roster increasing weekly, his inventory of 30 helmets could be inadequate. Wright, the receiver, stated his school-issued helmet damage his brow, so he purchased his personal.

Not but 90 seconds into final Friday’s recreation, he wrested a move from a defender’s palms and ran for a 68-yard landing.

“My Pops stated you purchase a brand new helmet, you play a great recreation,” Wright stated.

He practically caught a second landing move, however Collinwood’s lack of preseason preparation turned evident. The Railroaders performed with intent however misplaced, 14-8.

“If we had extra time to organize,” Wheeler stated, “that might have made a giant distinction.”

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