On practice fields around the state, high school football teams are preparing for the season’s opening kick-off. But before the whistle even blows, they’re being forced to tackle something different - helmets, nationwide, are in short supply.
Riddell, one of the nation’s leading manufacturers, says supply chain issues, transportation and labor shortages have disrupted the industry. Now, athletic directors are trying to find a solution.
“It’s been super difficult,” said East Catholic High School Athletic Director Jon Dahlquist. “If you’re trying to find them, they’re just not there.”
The situation is affecting East Catholic. The demand for helmets is much broader than that.
Get Connecticut local news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Connecticut newsletters.
“It’s a unique situation, but it’s something that everyone is dealing with no matter where you are in the country,” said Hamden Athletic Director Tom Dyer.
To avoid problems, suppliers advised schools that they needed to get their orders in by February. Still, for teams, with a growing roster and expanding programs, anticipating the exact number can be difficult.
Over ordering is also something schools try to avoid with prices of helmets usually exceeding $200 each. So, with a limited supply available immediately, administrators and vendors are hustling.
“I know that [the vendors] have been calling people and trying to find out if someone has an extra helmet or two,” Dyer said.
Dyer said coaches are working with each other the best they can.
“Coaches have traded some things to make sure the kids have what they need,” he said. “You know, I’ll give you a medium [size] you give me extra-large.”
At East Catholic, all players have helmets and while concern lingers, the focus is on the season itself.
“This is what I’ve been looking forward to all year,” said head coach Tommy Seaver. “We’ve been in the weight room since February and we just can’t wait to get back out there.”