Could the difference between winning and losing a youth football game be in a chin strap?
In the topsy turvey world of youth football the answer was yes for my team in 2006.
Chin straps seem like they are a pretty simple straight forward piece of equipment, snap one on, keep it tight and that’s the end of the story. But in todays world you have many choices for chin straps.
The cheap single strap chin straps that come with the helmet from the factory are pretty useless, they are hard, uncomfortable and in many leagues they are illegal. All helmets today come with snaps that will accommodate a double strap chin strap. Many officials feel that if a helmet has snaps for a double strap chin strap, then the player should be wearing a double strap chin strap. I agree.
The problem with single strap chin straps is, if one snap comes undone it is very easy for the helmet to come off. If a helmet comes off quickly a players ears could be injured quite easily. If the helmet is removed without the proper process of pulling out the ear holes, the players ears could literally be ripped. You also do not want players playing without helmets for the obvious reasons; leave that for NFL highlight films.
Just because you have a double strap chin strap does not mean the story ends there. Many snaps just wear out and do not fit together tightly. Make sure to check each of the four snaps to make sure they snap securely and make sure the chinstraps are tightened so they are tight, but not so tight that the player can not open and close his mouth easily. Keep an extra set of snaps and chin straps in your equipment bag.
How did we almost lose a game because of a chin strap? It really happened. Many youth football players today like to wear the latest and greatest gear, including chin straps. The latest craze are hard colored plastic cup chin straps with a foam like coating in the chin cup area. These straps look great and you would think would provide better protection than the soft chin straps of days past. The cup has an outer layer of hard molded plastic to protect the players chin.
The problem is all kids chins are not shaped alike. We had a player in 2006 that got one of these chin straps as a gift. He was our wingback and had descent speed. We liked to run wingback reverses with him and he was often in the open field on these football plays. We noticed that while he was running in the open field, he would often tug down on the lower part of his facemask. On one run where he got caught from behind on a sure TD run, he had actually slowed up a bit as he struggled to find his facemask with his open hand. It turned out his chin was too big for the chin strap and the chin strap would slide off on his long runs. This player had to pull down on his facemask to make sure the helmet stayed on. To make a long story short, we all now wear the simple four strap chin strap with the soft fuzzy chin cup. The soft cup forms itself around any shaped chin, not like the unforgiving hard cup chin straps. While the soft cup version may not look as pretty as the hard plastic version, the kids find them more comfortable, they are less than half the price of the others and they usually last at least two seasons if you wash them with bleach and air dry them at the end of each season. Yes, part of coaching youth football is to make sure your football players have the right kind of chinstrap, the wrong one could cost your team a game.
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