Kiski Area football adds Guardian Caps for extra level of safety during practice | #schoolsaftey


Saturday, October 14, 2023 | 3:18 PM

Kiski Area football players, coaches and fans witnessed a Laurel Highlands football player being carted off the field and to an area medical facility after a collision late in a Sept. 8 nonconference game with the Cavaliers at Richard Dilts Stadium.

Player safety remained on the mind of several of those connected closely to the Kiski Area program. From there, steps were taken to assure every player from grades seven to 12 had an extra layer of safety when taking the field for a practice.

A partnership with the football boosters and the district led to the purchase of nearly 100 Guardian Caps, cushioned safety wraps that fit onto helmets for added protection in practice.

“They are relatively new in the high school arena, but a lot of colleges use them, and they are mandatory at the NFL level,” Kiski Area football booster club president Cassi Heinle said. “When we played Laurel Highlands, that was a very surreal, very scary moment to see that boy lying there on the field and then later be lifeflighted.

“Thankfully, things worked out well for him. After that, there were a couple people who began searching for ways that we could help make things safer for the players.”

A team parent, Denise Caldwell, began to research options and came across the Guardian Caps. From there, she presented her research and the pricing to the football boosters and the district.

“That following week, we had a booster meeting, and the boosters unanimously — along with coach (Sam) Albert — voted to make this happen.”

The next piece of the process was the cost for the nearly 100 caps and how it would be covered.

“It is a $6,000 expense,” Heinle said. “So the boosters, along with a couple of the players, brought it before the district. It is a piece of safety equipment, and it will need to be maintained and cared for. The boosters understood that there only is so much money available for different things within the district. We were going to buy them no matter how the district responded. But the district was on board with the purchase, and we ended up splitting the cost.

“(Athletic director) John Peterman did an excellent job of executing the purchase. It was such a quick turnaround. I was pleased that everyone worked together and agreed that the safety of the kids was of such a high priority.”

Albert said he feels good for his players and the others throughout the program that there is that additional protection which, he added, provides cushion but doesn’t add additional weight to the helmet.

“I am proud the district took the initiative to have them ordered immediately,” he said. “They asked my opinion, and within a week to 10 days, we had them and on our kids. They are mandatory where every kid has to wear them every practice. Once the NFL made them mandatory, it’s only a matter of time before every college and every high school all have to have them.”

Albert said there was a brief tutorial on how to fasten the caps to the helmet, and every player caught on quickly.

“They snap on in the front and fold in the back, and it’s on,” Albert said. “It takes literally 10 seconds to put on before the first practice after a game.”

Senior two-way lineman Mason Caldwell, one of the players who went before the district to lobby for the caps, was on the field to witness the injury to the Laurel Highlands player.

He, too, echoes the importance of player safety whenever possible. As a lineman, he is at the forefront of the most collisions during a practice.

“With them, you have the confidence to go full speed and work on technique without worry about the constant helmet contact that is tough to avoid,” said Caldwell, who helped Kiski Area defeat conference rival Highlands, 36-21, Friday night. “You don’t really notice (the cap) is on the helmet. It’s pretty light.”

Junior lineman Cam Murphy said, like many others in the program, he is grateful that those in charge made this happen so quickly and care for the players’ safety.

“Practices have gone a lot better, and my head doesn’t hurt as much after,” said Murphy, who also attended the meeting with the district. “We love the game of football, and when it comes to safety, every little step and action is important.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .


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