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Playing it Safe

Sandpoint Bulldogs are outfitted with premier equipment selected for safety and quality

By Taylor Shillam | Photo by Jason Duchow Photography

When it comes to sports equipment, the first word that often comes to mind is safety. Among the many qualities a football player might desire from their gear, safety and protection are the true non-negotiables. For the Sandpoint Bulldogs, choosing to fit their players in premier protective gear by leading company Riddell helps ensure this safety.

Riddell Athletic Equipment and Reconditioning representative Allen Martin has been fitting Sandpoint football players for their equipment since 2015. He usually makes two annual trips to the schools: one in the spring to the high school, and another in the fall to fit junior high students for their helmets and shoulder pads.

“We take care in providing equipment that keeps the athlete safe, so each kid can perform at their peak for the entire year,” Martin shared. “There is no substitute for keeping an athlete as safe as possible in today’s game.”

His process is a collaborative one. “All of our helmets are 5-star helmets, which is the best you can get, but the specific style is up to the head coach and what they want to work with,” Martin said. Riddell’s shoulder pads are not rated, but Sandpoint uses the top-of-the-line pads that are in use by most high schools and colleges in the area.

Riddell, known for its innovative, high-quality football gear, is a top selection for many football organizations. “Trainers and equipment managers at the college and pro level use our brand of products about 78 percent of the time. That means there is a trust level and a proven level of performance from our equipment that they have all come to expect,” Martin said.

That level of trust trickles down from the professional levels to reach the high school and junior high players. “The equipment at Sandpoint is the same as what the D-1 schools use, so that is a compliment to what the coaches expect from our gear.”

Established in 1929, Riddell began with no history of football to draw from. “When it started out, there was no ‘history of the game,’” the company states. “We were inventing it right there on the spot.”

As a company, Riddell’s mission is to boldly champion the future of football. They believe in football and its bright future, and reflect this belief through their products.

Their products were innovated out of necessity, specifically leather cleats that wouldn’t hold up in wet weather conditions. Founder John T. Riddell experienced the problem firsthand within his own high school football team, leading to his invention of the removable cleat that transformed the traditional football shoe.

Since the 1920s, Riddell has produced products designed to enhance players’ performance and, in turn, enhance the game of football. The company’s innovations are backed by extensive research, driven by the wants and needs of players at all levels of the game, and created with the future in mind.

“The game of the future will be won with the brain,” they stated, emphasizing the importance of a protective space for the body’s most powerful tool. Their latest helmet, the Riddell SpeedFlex, used over 2 million data points of on-field impacts, meaning a lot of detailed technical work went into its design and conception.

The goal was to design a helmet with fully integrated components of peak athletic performance and state-of-the-art protection, a space that “most represents the future of the game.”

Players right here in Sandpoint have the chance to be a part of that future, as they are outfitted with the same high-quality, innovative equipment in the name of safety.

In addition to the Bulldogs, Martin has extensive experience working with higher-level football teams like the Seattle Seahawks and University of Idaho Vandals. At programs like these, the team has doctors and certified equipment managers complete the athletes’ equipment fittings, but the process is the same.

Just like in a high school athlete’s fitting, athletes at a professional level must be checked for an initial proper fit and alignment. The equipment must then be checked several times throughout the season to make sure there are no changes in fit. Factors of all kinds can play into a changing fit, from an updated hairstyle to a change in weather.

As a former football coach of 34 years, Martin finds his current involvement with young high school players rewarding. “I enjoy working with kids,” he explained, “and as coaches trust me to fit their kids, they ask me to do it every year. That trust is important to me.”

There is an undoubtedly high level of trust that goes into making sure young athletes can perform at their top level every week. Martin often performs an initial fitting, then rechecks their helmets just before playoffs. “It just confirms that trust in me, and in the equipment they have on,” he said.

To utilize high-end protective gear like Riddell equipment is deeply important to the Sandpoint football program. “The Bulldogs are outfitted with the best equipment from a safety standpoint,” the program shared on social media in a promotion for their ongoing raffle ticket sales. With player numbers growing to reach over 130 players, fundraising has been essential to ensure every player is fitted with the highest quality gear.

Fundraising efforts leading up to the 2021 season have been a big push, especially with the slowing of fundraising events during the pandemic. With an increasing player count and equipment needed for football camp, practices, and the season itself, the entire organization has been working hard to gather support to meet their financial obligations.

Their biggest fundraiser of the season, the Taylor and Sons Sandpoint Football Foundation Truck Raffle will culminate on the night of the Homecoming game, with a lucky winner receiving a brand-new truck. A show of support for efforts like the raffle is a show of support for the team’s use of the best gear available.

For a football player and the program that supports him, eliminating concerns about safety leaves more room to focus on performance. This season, cheer on the Bulldogs with confidence in the gear that protects them.

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