Helmet shortage could disrupt early football practices

Close-up of a high school football helmet.
Some schools could be a facing a shortage of helmets this fall.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

With high school football practices beginning next week, some coaches are scrambling to find enough helmets for players. Top manufacturers appear to have fallen behind in filling orders for new helmets and returning reconditioned helmets.

Coaches who ordered helmets months ago are in far better shape than those who waited until the spring.

Dave Siedelman, an administrator in the Los Angeles Unified School District athletics office, warned coaches in June that they needed to get helmet orders filed immediately. LAUSD has since helped coaches by purchasing helmets through Xenith and Buddy’s All Stars. They are supposed to be delivered by early August.


“Every school is getting what they need,” Siedelman said.

Simi Valley coach Jim Benkert said he was warned months ago about possible shortages in helmets, shoulder pads and footballs. He said multiple coaches have called him seeking equipment.

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

The shortages come at a time schools are trying to increase participation levels and re-start lower level teams after dealing with two years of COVID-19 issues.

“I’ll have to figure out something,” Leuzinger coach Brandon Manumaleuna said of finding enough equipment.

Leuzinger kicks off its season Sept. 1 against Chino Hills Ayala. A shipment of new helmets the program ordered is scheduled to arrive Aug. 30. In the meantime, Manumaleuna will have to get creative.

“We’re going to probably have to buy them from someone else,” he said.

Gardena Serra coach Scott Altenberg is waiting on 10 helmets. Originally they were supposed to arrive two weeks ago. Then last week.


“Sometimes, you get a kid with a weird-shaped head, and you can rush-order a helmet,” Altenberg said. “That doesn’t seem to be an option anymore.”

The problem extends to refurbishing used helmets.

Lakewood Mayfair coach Derek Bedell has been waiting since December for his equipment to be returned. He said 75 are expected to come Tuesday and 150 at a later date. Part of the issue, he suspected, stemmed from coaches not refurbishing their helmets after the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season, leading to increased demand this offseason.

Manumaleuna and Altenberg said they faced the same issues last season. Altenberg didn’t receive all his helmets until Week 3, and when he did, he said they weren’t quite the right color.

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

His solution last season — hop on the phone and make some calls. Time for some networking.

Loyola coach Drew Casani said he contacted representatives from Riddell and Schutt seeking helmets and was told orders could not be fulfilled for several months.

“There’s nothing available,” he said.

Staff writer Luca Evans contributed to this story.