With concerns over concussions and other injuries, player safety is foremost in the minds of everyone associated with football at all levels.
Certainly that is the case locally, which is why the Woodward Touchdown Club has started a fundraising drive to improve the equipment used by the Woodward football players.
In consultation with new Boomer head coach Rick Luetjen, the touchdown club and supporters are looking to raise money to purchase the Riddell SpeedFlex Helmet, which has the best available helmet ratings (5-Star on Virginia Tech helmet ratings) when it comes to reducing concussion risks.
"In meeting with Lance Semmel (touchdown club president) we wanted to try and figure out the best way to use money they raise during their fundraising process," Luetjen said.
"My concern is more with player safety and getting the best equipment possible."
That includes the SpeedFlex Helmet.
"It is one of the top of the line helmets on the market now as far as being reasonable price wise," Luetjen said. "Riddell does a good job of keeping the price down on these. They retail at about $400 (a helmet) and in a bulk purchase about $350."
Currently the program has 12 of the SpeedFlex Helmets and Luetjen would like to have at least somewhere around 40 by the time the season starts. The touchdown club's goal is to raise enough money so that every player on the sideline has a new SpeedFlex helmet.
Luetjen has previous experience with the SpeedFlex as in his last year at Hennessey, they were able to buy over 100 of them for kids from the third grade up.
"I'm behind the drive 100 percent," Luetjen said. "I would rather see that money go toward keeping kids safe as much as possible and this is the helmet to do it with. Last year when we were able to have all of our kids in them, we had one minor concussion during the year at Hennessey."
This doesn't mean the Boomer football team is without helmets as they prepare for the 2019 season. There are plenty of quality helmets on hand, but some are getting close to the 10 year cycle when they need to be rotated out and the idea is to replace as many as possible with the newer SpeedFlex.
The touchdown club has put together a dedicated $500 sponsorship package called "HEADed in the Right Direction Campaign."
The dedicated package includes a person or business sponsoring a SpeedFlex Helmet with recognition on the "Gold Helmet" banner for each helmet provided, recognition in the athletic program "Gold Helmet" page that will be provided at all home football and basketball games, and recognition during the football game.
Also, sponsors will receive the helmet that is being replaced (signed by the football players).
Fundraising letters have gone out and other efforts are being planned.
Luetjen said in addition to funds raised by the touchdown club, the program would use money raised from annual gold card sales to purchase additional helmets.
A few of the improvements with the SpeedFlex include a cutout on the flex part that helps reduce impact force, facemasks that are more impact resistant, a chin strip design that helps keep helmets on better during a game and some inside padding changes that make the helmet fit all players better.
For more information or if you are interested in helping you can contact touchdown club officers: Lance Semmel, president (580-334-9155); Robert Hunter, vice president (580-254-1534); Heather Baggs, secretary/public relations (580-254-0498); Nancy Pope, treasurer (580-334-0079).