‘Where are our helmets?’ Football practice starts in a week, and Morgan Park has just one helmet

Mustangs coach Chris James has no idea when his reconditioned helmets will be returned. Football practice starts Aug. 8.

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Morgan Park’s Javon Clark (10) runs a drill during practice on August 9, 2021.

Morgan Park’s Javon Clark (10) runs a drill during practice on August 9, 2021.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

Morgan Park football coach Chris James has lofty ambitions for his team this season. He believes they can make a run in the state playoffs.

But before those dreams can materialize Morgan Park needs a basic, simple thing: helmets.

The Mustangs currently have just one.

“It’s from a kid that turned it in late after last season,” James said.

Morgan Park’s other 75 helmets were sent to Schutt Sports in December. Schutt, the helmet manufacturer, reconditions the helmets every year.

At this point, James has no idea when his helmets will be returned. Practice starts on Aug. 8.

“If I even had a date and a tracking number that would be cool,” James said. “But I kept getting the same response, that they would be sent out soon. And now they are saying they don’t know when we will get them.”

Taft football coach Zach Elder says that his school sent 163 helmets to Schutt and received 99 back in mid-July. He’s still waiting for the rest, including 14 new helmets he bought in February.

Simeon coach Dante Culbreath is waiting for Schutt to return 25 helmets. Both Taft and Simeon at least have enough helmets for their varsity teams.

There are supply chain issues with helmets and pads nationwide. Several schools around the state need more helmets. Kenwood coach Sinque Turner says he still needs 10. But that’s because his program has grown.

“These are my helmets,” James said. “It’s not like you are giving me a new helmet. It’s frustrating because this is going to be a special team.”

Morgan Park has already suffered due to the delay. The Mustangs have missed out on competing in several 7-on-7 competitions this summer.

“They kids ask me about it every day,” James said. “‘Where are our helmets?’ They see all their friends at other schools with them and keep asking me why we don’t have ours. I don’t know what to tell them.”

Morgan Park coach Chris James at a practice last season.

Morgan Park coach Chris James at a practice last season.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

Chicago Public Schools pays for the helmets to be reconditioned. CPS says it took over the reconditioning process of helmets and shoulder pads in 2020 to ensure consistent service and negotiate prices.

“We are working diligently with our partners to ensure all football equipment arrives in time prior to the start of football season amidst the statewide and nationwide supply chain delays and shortages of football helmets and shoulder pads,” CPS Sports Director David Rosengard said in a statement. “We have been in constant communication with our schools and vendors to hopefully resolve the issue as soon as possible.”

CPS sent a memo to principals on July 7 informing them that reconditioned helmets and shoulder pads had been delayed “due to nationwide supply-chain delays.” The memo said the new target delivery date for helmets reconditioned by Schutt was July 15.

Schutt, which is located in Litchfield, IL, has not responded to requests for comment.

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