The good news, if you are Bishop England High School football coach John Cantey, is that interest in the Battling Bishops football program is almost at the breaking point.
The coach is in charge of the varsity and junior varsity programs and there are more than 100 players ready to do battle for BE. The junior varsity team boasts some ultra-impressive numbers with 60 players on the roster.
“It’s great to see so many players come out,” said Cantey, whose team opens the season Aug. 26 against rival Porter-Gaud. “Interest in the program is very, very high, and that’s great to see. The numbers indicate we are getting back to normal.”
Back to normal, as in before COVID-19 shut down almost every facet of life as we knew it in the first quarter of 2020. Most coaches, including Cantey, were ready to put the pandemic behind them.
But if you’ve tried to order a refrigerator in the past two years or if you’ve tried to purchase an automobile or even a new home, you know about the supply chain issues that are a lingering byproduct of the pandemic.
With the high school football season right around the corner, coaches across the country are scrambling to find helmets for players because some of the helmet manufacturers such as Schutt and Riddell are behind schedule in filling orders for new helmets and returning reconditioned helmets.
And that includes Cantey, who has resorted to finding helmets via Facebook.
“So, we have almost 60 JV football players, we average about 35, and we ran out of helmets,” Cantey posted on Facebook. “Looking for football helmets that are less than 10 years old. Thanks.”
The team’s football helmet supplier, Riddell, ran out of football helmets in May and doesn’t expect to fill new or past-due orders until October.
While the varsity team is good to go as far as helmets are concerned, it’s the junior varsity team, and its players, that might feel the brunt of the helmet shortage.
“We’ve got a lot of new players in the program who are eager to play football,” Cantey said. “But if we don’t get helmets until October, that means they can’t play in games. They can’t practice or play without helmets. We’ve had even more kids express interest in playing junior varsity in the last couple of weeks, but we can’t let kids come out for football at this stage of the season if they don’t have a football helmet.”
Cantey said a typical new football helmet costs $300-$400 and has a lifespan of approximately 10 years. The team has about 115 helmets on hand, but the only ones available are the extra-large size, meaning the helmets are too big for most junior varsity players’ heads.
The helmet shortages come at a time schools are trying to boost sports participation levels and jumpstart interest in lower level teams after dealing with two years of COVID-19 issues.
Football helmets aren’t the only piece of football equipment that are hard to find. Shoulder pads and other equipment can also be hard to get and could potentially affect youth leagues this fall.