As the start of the 2010 football season draws near, youth players across the country look forward to that day when equipment is passed out and they walk away with their helmets, pads and uniform ready for the first days of practice.
Football equipment is an important topic for youth leagues and teams that relates to their management as well as the protection of the players. George Maczuga, Football Equipment Expert for USA Football's Football and Wellness Committee and Director of Sales and Marketing Support at Riddell, shares equipment inventory and reconditioning tips for leagues to follow at different stages year-round:
- When issuing equipment and fitting players before the season, document each piece of equipment given to each player. Record the style, manufacturer and size of helmets and pads. This provides control at the end of the season when equipment is returned.
- Equipment should be cleaned and sanitized following the season for the protection of the players in the future. Proper cleaning products should be compatible with the plastic and material of the equipment so as not to have negative effects.
- An annual reconditioning program should be in place to send equipment to a licensed National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) reconditioner for the inspection and reconditioning process.
- Order replacements for equipment that has been found to be defective during the reconditioning process. Inventory should be kept at 10-15% above the number of players in the league in order to ensure there is an adequate amount and sizes for all players.
- Equipment needs to be stored properly so as to avoid damage and wear during the off-season. When equipment returns after reconditioning, leave it sealed in the boxes. Otherwise, helmets can be stored on racks and walls. Shoulder pads also need to be stored on racks. Do not stack them on the ground with no support or else the pads at the bottom can become damaged.
When it comes to football equipment, helmets are thought of first and foremost, and rightfully so. They protect a critical part of a player's body and have witnessed great innovation over the years. While helmets are key for protection, they form only one piece of the equipment puzzle though. Pads such as shoulder pads should be included in all of the above inventory and reconditioning steps.
"The most overlooked product to be reconditioned are shoulder pads," Maczuga said. "It's probably because of priority ... but those should be cleaned annually as well."
Budget constraints can dramatically affect a league's ability to recondition its equipment every year, but there are some steps they can take to make it possible. Programs need to prioritize how much they are going to spend on various items. Spending money on helmet decals and stripes or fancy uniforms will look good but might not be the best allocation of league resources if equipment is in need of reconditioning.
"Finances are always really important," Maczuga recognizes. "I think a lot of times cosmetics will override protection for the athlete. Maybe if you cut back on the cosmetics and the bells and whistles, you'll have some money set aside to put into your reconditioning budget."
The cosmetics are usually popular with the kids and are fine, but the protective aspects of equipment must come first. If annual reconditioning is still not feasible, it should be done every other year at the very least.
"The player deserves it," Maczuga said. "He or she deserves to have a fresh piece of equipment when they start. That doesn't mean it needs to be a new piece of equipment, but they should be able to walk out thinking 'Doesn't this look good, and this is nice.' It makes the parents happy and gives the player a feeling of pride."