Whether you just want to play touch football in the backyard with friends, or dream of someday making it to the pros, the right football gear will go a long way toward helping you get started. Start with the basic essentials and buy as you go, or, if you can afford it, buy the best right from the start.
The most essential piece of football equipment is, of course, the football. The type and size of football depends on the player's age and hand size. Leather footballs, as well as synthetic leather balls, are available. Choose from reputable manufacturers like Wilson, Rawlings, or Spalding.
Buy a football that will fit the player's hand so he or she can learn to throw properly. Foam footballs are best for younger players less than six years of age. These foam footballs are usually mini-sized, and are perfect for small hands to hold. K2 footballs are used in Pee Wee League football, played by children aged six through nine.
For Pop Warner Leagues, in which the players are between nine and twelve years of age, junior footballs or TDJ footballs are required. Youth Leagues for players between twelve and fourteen use TDY footballs. Collegiate footballs are used for high school and college play, while official footballs are used in the NFL.
Avoid the temptation of buying an official NFL football for teaching a youngster how to throw and catch. These are bigger and less rounded than NCAA footballs, which make the latter a better choice for teaching younger players.
Protect the head
After choosing a football, most players will want to choose a helmet that offers at least basic head protection. Riddell makes good youth football helmets, as does Wilson. Both companies also manufacture quality adult football helmets.
Wondering how to choose the right size helmet? Measure the distance around the player's head just above the eyebrows when his or her hair is slightly damp. Many players prefer helmets with air system liners. These are more durable and comfortable than helmets with foam padding.
Standard helmets with foam padding, however, tend to be less expensive than helmets with air system liners. Additionally, the foam pads can be replaced after they are worn out or discolored. This helps to extend the life of the helmet. Never use helmets that do not meet NOCSAE standards.
Be sure to choose a football helmet with sturdy chin straps. These keep the helmet snugly on the player's head. If the straps wear or require replacing, buy replacement straps.
Some football helmets include face masks for added protection from injury. Different face masks offer different levels of protection. Some masks offer only protection to the mouth, or oral area; this designation is abbreviated OPO. An NOPO masks offers protection to only the nose and mouth area, while an EGOP mask will protect eye glasses and the mouth area.
Football masks may be doubled-wired or single-wired. Some are reinforced, or feature a U-Bar. Others are specially designed for players who play in skill positions on the team.
Padding for protection
The right set of shoulder pads will also offer valuable protection from injury during play. The best way to determine a person's shoulder pad size is to measure across the shoulder blades on the back and round up by 1/2 inch.
Younger players may wear size 2x small or extra-small, while youth sizes run from small to large. Adult players may wear pads sized from adult medium to 5-XL, depending on their size. When purchasing pads for younger players, both weight and chest size may also factor into the size needed.
Different players will require different shoulder pads based on the position they play as well as their size. For example, linemen will need full, well-secured pads with vinyl buckles. Front shoulder pads that are plated will work best for linebackers, tight ends, or fullbacks.
Other players, including quarterbacks, kickers, and punters, will need lightweight pads. These often work best for running backs and wide receivers as well. These pads should stay secured in place so that they don't restrict the player's movement while running.
Other football pads are used as well for protecting other body parts. Forearm pads are usually worn by linemen for shielding hands and arms. These players usually also wear thickly padded gloves for additional hand protection. In contrast, lightweight, flexible gloves are better for wide receivers, defensive linebackers, and running backs.
Knee pads and thigh pads are often worn in addition to shoulder pads as well. Rib vests and rib protectors also help to protect the lungs or ribs from injury, while neck rolls and collar pads are worn to prevent broken collarbones. Hip pads and girdles are recommended for all players, to prevent hip or tailbone injuries.
Keep your footing
Football cleats are often worn by football players, depending on the condition of the playing field. Several manufactures, including Nike, Reebok, and Adidas sell quality football cleats. Players should buy cleats that are the same size as their regular football shoes. Depending on the turf, players can use molded or detachable cleats.
Molded rubber cleats are designed to help players maintain their footing on hard surfaces. In comparison, detachable football cleats offer much greater playing flexibility. Players can wear these with many different kinds of field conditions, as well as on grass football fields.
Some football cleats are made from leather, while others are manufactured from synthetic materials. Leather football cleats are sturdy and flexible, and allow a player's feet to breathe. Synthetic football cleats cost much less and are excellent for children whose feet are still growing.
Manufacturers offer three different heights of football cleats. Some players desire shoes that are as light and maneuverable as possible; low-cut football cleats are ideal this purpose. Most players, including the vast majority of skill players, want a balance between support and maneuverability, so they choose mid-cut football cleats. Linemen, however, usually require maximum ankle support, so they usually opt for high-top football cleats instead.
Playing football can be a lot of fun, but without the right equipment, it can be downright dangerous. Take time to make sure your player is prepared, so he or she can enjoy the game without serious injuries. It's definitely worth the investment!