Team Insight

May / June 2019

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T he fascination with tackle football in the U.S. seems to generate record levels of interest – from an atten- dance and viewership perspective -- every year from a fan base that can best be described as avid and, at times, animated. Yes, Americans love their football and their passion for the pigskin, er cowhide, starts as soon as children put on a helmet or attach those flags to the belt around their waist. Yet it is no secret the participation in foot- ball at the youth level is struggling, as safety concerns are prompting many parents to ques- tion whether their children should be donning pads and a helmet before they reach their teens. In fact, according to a recent study by the Seattle Children's Research Institute, 63 percent of parents support age restrictions for tackle football, while the majority of mothers (63 percent) and fathers (58 percent) are in favor of setting a starting age for their children to begin playing tackle football. "The goal of restricting tackling to older youth would be to decrease the risk of injury, by decreasing exposure to collisions until youth are older and more adept at controlling their bodies in space," says lead study author Dr. Sara Chrisman. Does this mean that football is a becoming a sport that everybody likes to watch, but very few want to play? Far from it, but the sport in the future may look markedly different than the game today's adults grew up playing in their youth. In the Trenches Year-Round Although played primarily in the fall in America, football has almost always been a year-round sport for team dealers. Soon after the final whistle blows each fall, head football coaches start thinking and planning for the next season — checking the wear and tear on pads, reconditioning helmets and designing uniforms. In warm-weather climates such as Florida, football coaches are always in the game — whether it's the pre-, regular, post-, off- or spring season. "Head coaches in Florida are in touch with me immediately after every season finishes as they start making purchasing decisions for the next season," explains Joel Dunn, sales rep for Performance Team Sports, Miami, FL. "The schools that order custom jerseys make their purchasing decisions in January and February. Schools that delay uniform-buying decisions are limited to stock." Dunn's football business in January and February is not limited to selling uniforms. "We're also busy with getting helmets re-con- ditioned," he adds. As Dunn looks forward to the kickoff of the 2019 football season in August, he's optimistic that football will continue to lead the way. "While football has been under attack in recent years, it's still king," Dunn says. In Pennsylvania, where football is close to a religion in some regions, the football business is solid, but admittedly not as strong as it has been in the past. "Football used to be a bigger part of my busi- ness," reports Tom McCormack, owner of C&M Sporting Goods, Havertown, PA. He points to a number of factors: teams buying direct from the manufacturers, concerns about concussions, the financial cost and young athletes increas- ingly playing one sport year-round rather than two or three different sports. "Many leagues, teams and organizations are buying direct for some of their bigger items such as uniforms, helmets and shoulder pads, which has hurt my business," McCormack says, adding that many parents, after watching 16 Team Insight ~ May/June 2019 NEW GAME PLAN Youth football in America is changing with the times — and team dealers are changing along with it. TEAM FOOTBALL

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