Scotland County Parks and Recreation officials are getting creative in an effort to replace their aging collection of youth football helmets.
As many as 30 of the 180 helmets will need to be replaced before the start of the upcoming Parks and Recreation football season in September.
“The older helmets create a liability,” said Parks and Rec Athletic Director Al Blades of the potentially unsafe protective equipment.
The topic was first discussed at last month’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board meeting when board member Melissa Brisson mentioned that a number of parents had purchased helmets on their own because of the condition of the equipment.
Blades told the board this week that it would cost about $57 to buy a new helmet and about $27 to recondition an old one. A representative of the athletic equipment and helmet manufacturer Riddell will be in Laurinburg next week to inspect the helmets and to determine which ones can be reconditioned.
“There aren’t many companies that actually offer a reconditioning service,” said Blades. According to Blades, many helmets older than 10 years are not eligible for reconditioning.
Once it is determined exactly how many new helmets will be needed, Parks and Recreation will then accept bids from companies to supply them.
Blades said the number of children wishing to play football next year is expected to rise, increasing the need for adequate equipment.
Approximately 200 children registered in the tackle football leagues last year, and Blades expects that number to be exceeded “at least by 20” for the 2012 season.
“The number always goes up when the high school has a good year and they had an excellent year,” Blades said.
Blades cited a recent Virginia Tech/Wake Forest joint study indicating the importance of proper safety gear for youth football players. In that study, which tracked hits among a team of 7 and 8-year-old football players, it was learned that those players sometimes received hits as powerful as those experienced by college players.
To pay for the helmets, the board is considering a number of money-making options, including writing grants, partnering with the school system and adding a section on the registration form asking parents to donate $5 to an equipment fund.
Other suggestions from this week’s brainstorming session included advertising businesses’ names on the helmets and selling the helmets to former players online or through a silent auction. Asking NFL players from Scotland County to help defray the cost of the helmets was an idea, as well.
The board also suggested contacting the Carolina Panthers about getting their players to autograph the helmets
County Commissioner Guy McCook, who serves on the board, said he heard a lot of good ideas that need to be explored.
“We just need to get some good equipment,” McCook said. “I can’t see risking some kid’s health over $50.”
Blades said the suggestions will be investigated in the coming weeks.
“I’m not sure if we could get the Panthers to do something like that, especially with the big players like Cam Newton participating, but we will find out,” said Blades.
Scott Witten contributed to this article.