Youth football programs lean on crowdfunding to afford Vicis’ high-tech helmet

Youth football programs lean on crowdfunding to afford Vicis’ high-tech helmet

Football is still America’s game in U.S. high schools, drawing more than a million athletes each year. But concerns over the lasting effects of concussions have caused youth participation in the sport to dip in recent years.

Vicis, a Seattle startup, wants to help preserve the game for younger athletes with a high-tech helmet that recently ranked first in Virginia Tech’s inaugural youth football helmet safety ratings.

But many youth programs are finding it difficult to pay the $495 price tag, sparking questions of fairness: should the safest helmet only be available to those who can afford it?

Five Seattle-area football programs announced that they would be using the Vicis helmet earlier this month, but several are from the region’s wealthiest areas, such as Bellevue and Mercer Island, Wash.

Just down the street from Vicis’ production facility in Seattle, the Ballard Jr. Football program launched a crowdfunding campaign that aims to raise $50,000 to pay for the helmets, which are designed to mitigate the forces thought to cause concussions. Neighborhood news site MyBallard first reported the fundraising effort, which has taken in more than $8,000 so far.

“We’re definitely not in the best position to pay for [the helmets] or fundraise for them in our community,” said Andrew Muller, the Ballard program’s league president.

Inequality in youth sports has been documented over the past several years, with some pointing to the high cost of youth sports as a reason for declining athletic participation. In Washington State, the governing athletics association recently approved an amendment intended to help low-income schools be more competitive in sports.

But protecting a teenager’s brain adds another layer to the debate.

Justin Pressley, head football coach at Volunteer High School in Church Hill, Tennessee, told GeekWire that the high price point is prohibitive for most teams.

“I actually really love the Vicis helmets. I would love for our kids to get a chance to wear them,” he said in an email. “If it’s truly the safest, it has to be affordable for everyone if they care about the sport of football.”

Pressley estimated that it would cost $30,000 to equip his youth team with Vicis helmets. For high school teams, the cost would be even higher, since older students need to buy the $950 Vicis ZERO1 helmet.

Nearly half of parents say they would sway their kids away from playing football due to concerns over concussions, according to a poll last year from NBC and The Wall Street Journal. Participation in high school football has declined 6.5 percent in the past decade as increasing research links the sport to brain disease.

Another crowdfunding effort in Boca Raton, Fla. aims to purchase Vicis helmets for schools in the area. The effort was spearheaded by Adam Levine, whose son Miles suffered a serious concussion last year during a football game. Several other individual players and teams have turned to websites like GoFundMe to raise money for the helmets.

Levine said that the players at his local school, who live in a wealthy area, are still “wearing the helmets that I wore when I was there.” Levine received more than $50,000 in support to help pay his son’s medical bills, but has only been able to raise $500 toward the new helmets.

“[The Vicis helmets are] really expensive,” he said. “No public school is spending that kind of money on helmets.”

The ZERO1 Youth helmet is more than double the price of the second-rated helmet in the Virginia Tech safety rankings, the Xenith Youth X2E+. But it’s also less expensive than the third-rated helmet, the Schutt Youth F7, which sells for $570.

The difference in performance between the top two helmets was stark: Xenith’s helmet came in 1.4 points behind Vicis’ on a 5-point scale, which measured the ability to reduce acceleration due to impact.

Vicis has raised $84 million since spinning out of the University of Washington in 2014. After only two years on the market, 28 NFL teams and 120 NCAA programs now use the company’s helmets.

But the startup’s long-term goal is to offer its products to younger athletes. Vicis first introduced the youth version of its ZERO1 last fall and will begin deliveries of the helmet in June. Vicis’ youth version is nearly half the cost of its ZERO1 adult helmet, which retails for $950.

Tony Titus, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Vicis, said the company has invested $20 million into research and development to create its helmets for youth and adult players.

“The thing we won’t ever sacrifice — and haven’t — is to put the money and the time in up front to design a really good product,” he said. “We want to make our product as accessible as possible, but not at the cost of performance. There’s always a challenge when you innovate that you don’t want to leave anybody behind.”

Vicis has group discounts for youth football programs that can reduce the cost of helmets by as much as 20 percent. It also offers financing programs and has partnered with FundMyTeam, a crowdfunding website for youth sports teams, to offer fundraising services at a reduced rate.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers participated in a $28.5 million funding round last year that coincided with the launch of the youth helmet. “We invested in VICIS because its commitment to player safety — specifically at the youth level — is one we wanted to support,” Rodgers said in a statement at the time.

For Muller, the Ballard football coach who is fundraising to purchase the Vicis helmets, the decision to go with Vicis was “a no-brainer.” Muller’s players have tested helmets for Vicis in the past and have even appeared as models in the company’s marketing.

“I love the game of football. I don’t want to see it go away,” he said. “But I also want to make sure that we’re doing everything possible to make sure our kids are playing the game as safely as possible.”

Vicis said it has sold thousands of the new youth helmets, but most programs won’t place helmet orders until June or July.

“Over time, as we achieve volume and cost savings, we are going to pass that along to make it more accessible,” said Titus.

3 Reasons Why Pre-Game Routines Are Important

3 Reasons Why Pre-Game Routines Are Important

It’s worth noting that the world’s best athletes have pre-game routines, and it’s been like that for as long as we can remember. But why is that the case? Do these routines play any significance in these athletes’ performance?

In this article, we will give you three compelling reasons which adequately explain why pre-game routines are essential for every athlete to have.

1.    They Are the Best Preparation Method

First and foremost, pre-game routines are the best preparation method an athlete can use. Why? Mostly because habits develop your abilities and skills, they essentially get you ready for the match ahead. An excellent pre-game routine will enable you to ascertain everything you know you can do essentially.

Routines do this by making sure that everything you have learned in practice will now be effectively performed in the game. You can develop these routines during practice and repeat them before a match, and that should be enough to get you truly ready for the game.

2.    They Build Confidence in Your Abilities

The only thing in a game that you can control is yourself. You can do nothing about the weather conditions or the knowledge of your opponents. You can barely even control how your team performs. The only thing that you can control is your playing and your ability.

Even when you’re a great player, you’ll still lose faith in yourself from time to time, which is where routines will come in handy. They enable a player to build their confidence and get them mentally ready for the game at hand.

3.    They Calm You Down

We all, as human beings, love routines. We like having some consistency about a lot of things in our lives. It calms us down because it reassures us that everything is alright. That all works on a deep psychological level and in an effort not to get too technical – routines are familiar, we know how they unfold and what will happen, and this certainty inherently breeds safety.

The same can be said for sports and pre-game routines. By repeating particular moves, we’ll naturally feel safer and thus more calm in that period when most athletes are under stress. The game that’s about to start won’t be a scary thing anymore once all the frequent moves, i.e., your routine, have been performed.

Build Your Perfect Routine

There’s no routine out there that can help you achieve what you want to achieve, but you can certainly build one for yourself.

Every player needs to take a look at what works best for them and develop that into a sequence of moves that will work as a pre-game routine.

If you are a coach, you should explain this to your players and get them to start developing their routines if they don’t have ones. Explain to them that the habit will end up being more than merely helpful. They might even lead them to have the best game of their lives. If you’re interested in more articles like this one, feel free to take a look at our blog, or contact us if you want to get more information.