Helmet shortage could derail early football practices

Football practice starts next week in schools and some coaches are struggling to find enough helmets for the players. It appears that leading manufacturers are lagging behind in fulfilling orders for new helmets and returning refurbished helmets.

Coaches who ordered helmets a few months ago are in much better shape than those who waited until spring.

Dave Sidelman, Los Angeles Unified School District athletics administrator, warned coaches in June that they needed to apply for helmets immediately. Since then, LAUSD has been helping coaches by buying helmets through Xenith and Buddy’s All Stars. They should be delivered by the beginning of August.

“Each school gets what they need,” Sidelman said.

Simi Valley coach Jim Benkert said he was warned months ago about a possible shortage of helmets, shoulder pads and soccer balls. He said that several trainers called him looking for equipment.

“I stocked up on everything because I heard problems, problems, problems,” Benkert said.

The shortage comes as schools try to boost participation and restart lower-level teams after two years of dealing with COVID-19.

“I need to come up with something,” Leuzinger coach Brandon Manumaleuna said of finding enough equipment.

Leuzinger opens its season in September. 1 against Chino Hills Ayala. A batch of new helmets ordered by the program should arrive in August. 30. In the meantime, Manumaleune will have to get creative.

“We will probably have to buy them from someone else,” he said.

Gardena Serra coach Scott Altenberg is waiting for 10 helmets. They were originally supposed to arrive two weeks ago. Then last week.

“Sometimes you get a kid with a weirdly shaped head and you can rush to order a helmet,” Altenberg said. “It doesn’t seem like an option anymore.”

The problem extends to the restoration of used helmets.

Lakewood Mayfair coach Derek Bedell has been waiting since December for his kit to be returned. He said 75 people are expected to arrive on Tuesday and 150 later. He suspected part of the problem was coaches not updating their helmets after the 2020 season shortened due to COVID-19, which led to an increase in demand this off-season.

Manumaleuna and Altenberg said they faced the same problems last season. Altenberg didn’t receive all of his helmets until the third week, and when he did, he said they weren’t the right color.

“But they were blue,” Altenberg said, “so we went along with it.”

His decision last season was to pick up the phone and make a few calls. Time for networking.

Loyola coach Drew Kazani said he contacted Riddell and Schutt reps looking for helmets and was told the orders could not be filled for several months.

“There is nothing available,” he said.

Staff writer Luca Evans contributed to the story.