Funny you should ask....
Those who have been with us over the years know that we are always looking to improve our customers’ experiences and up our game. Whether it’s sweet Championship Rings, all-girl teams or divisions, or the best uniforms in the nation . . . . we are the innovators, not the imitators (except for that last line, which we’re “borrowing” from one of those diet commercials on sports radio).
So, what’s new for 2018?
First, you will notice a little re-branding. We’re changing from New England Flag Football to just New England Football. We love flag football (and that will never change). But, we also love football generally and want to lead the charge to preserve this great game (in all of its forms) for generations to come. So, we’ve changed our name to better reflect our interest in all things football, including flag football, Flex Football (see more below), and helping families who want to play tackle football make a smooth transition to the game.
Second, we have introduced Flex Football. What the what??? Flex Football is the most innovative, cutting edge football offering in years. It bridges the gap
between flag football and traditional tackle football by incorporating higher level concepts such as blocking, line play, bump & run coverage and more – but still in a limited contact environment. Players are outfitted with soft shell helmets and shoulder pads for added safety during the games.
We test drove Flex Football this past winter with a group of 50+ players across two divisions, and the feedback was off the charts. Players and coaches raved about the gameplay and the fun they had playing the sport. Based on that experience, we are bringing Flex Football to Saturdays this Fall. Have questions? Contact us for more information.
Third, we are bringing soft shell helmets to flag football. Over the past six years, we’ve seen a lot (and we mean A LOT) of flag football games . . . just ask our wives, who good-naturedly become flag football widows each year from August to November. And, over the years, we’ve seen a lot of bumps and bruises from contact involving flag players’ heads (whether with another head, some other body part or the ground). After years of watching flag football games and doing some research on the issue, we determined we could do something to make this great sport even safer for our players. So, we decided to make soft shell helmets mandatory this season.
Let’s first talk about what soft shell helmets do not do. They do not prevent concussions. No helmet does. Even the big, bulky helmets you see in contact/impact sports like tackle football, lacrosse, hockey, etc. are designed to prevent cuts and abrasions. So, we will continue to emphasize with our coaches and officials that players must still avoid head contact in all phases of the game. But, soft shell helmets do provide an added layer of protection for impacts involving players’ heads (the second most common injury type in flag football, following hand and finger injuries). Our goal in using soft shell helmets is to reduce the incidence of bumps, bruises, cuts, split lips, bloody noses and facial impacts - the most common types of head injuries in flag football. While we are the first in the area to require this extra layer of safety (as far as we know), numerous flag football leagues across the country have already taken this step to help protect their players. And, the league administrators with whom we’ve spoken were glad they made the move to increase player safety.
Finally, some have asked why we are requiring use of the RockSolid softshell helmets over cheaper models found on the internet? The answer is somewhat implied in the question. After reviewing options for softshell headgear, we believe that the RockSolid helmets are the best option for non-contact football use. While other helmets may look similar, the primary differences are to be found in the placement, density and type of the padding. Many of the options being touted for flag football use are rugby “scrum” caps, with half-moon shaped padding on the front exposing more of the frontal plate to impact and a lack of padding in the back (where the helmets are laced together) exposing the occipital area to unbuffered impacts. Other options were designed for martial arts, soccer, etc. and are now being rebranded as appropriate for non-contact football use. After our review of the other soft-shell helmets out there, consultation with industry participants and using a little common sense, we believe the RockSolid helmet is currently superior to its competition in all relevant respects. In our view, ineffective head protection may create more risk than no protection at all.
And, for the laundry engineers in the house (dads or moms), the RockSolid helmets are machine-washable . . . bonus.
So, in answer to the questions of “why would we make helmets mandatory?,” we say “how could we not?”