The 10 Best Youth Shoulder Pads
Safety And Performance: The Parent's Dillema
As the parent of a child playing a contact sport like football, you are likely pretty torn. On the one hand, you want them to have fun and be a great player, but on the other hand, you would like to avoid trips to the hospital if at all possible. While it isn’t the best practice to send your child out onto the field wearing scant safety equipment, wrapping every piece of their body up in foam padding isn’t conducive to a good game either.
Luckily, the modern era in shoulder pad technology strikes a balance between safety and performance. It all starts with knowing what is best for your child. Taking a few things into consideration when choosing shoulder pads goes a long way to ensuring your child is having a blast on the field - while staying safe.
For instance, the position your child is playing has a big influence on what types of pads are good for them. If your child is playing a heavily physical position, such as a lineman or linebacker, it would make sense to offer them the most protection possible. In this instance, cantilever shoulder pads would be great for them, dispersing the impact from hit after hit.
If your child plays a position which requires agility and dexterity, such as running back, quarterback, wide receiver, or safety, the bulky design of a cantilever shoulder pad can hinder their performance. These positions don’t take as many hits as others, and need full mobility of their arms and shoulders to either throw or catch the ball. Professional players actually prefer smaller shoulder pads such as these. Then again, they are professionals. For a youth player, look to find an option which is both protective and allows them to perform at their highest potential.
Things To Consider When Choosing Shoulder Pads
After finding the type of shoulder pads you want to want to buy, it’s time to compare features. There are many features we can enjoy in shoulder pads today that early players only dreamed of. For instance, lightweight, breathable open cell foam is now used in some models which actually allows air to circulate through the pads themselves. This means more comfort, and less dehydration.
Also, consider how adjustable the shoulder pads are. If the player is young, will the pads grow with them? Many models offer adjustable shoulder plates, which allow for range of motion and factor in a small degree of growth. Another thing to consider is just how much protection you want. Some shoulder pads cover just the shoulders and sternum, while others go so far as to include built in back supports and kidney pads.
One consideration which may save you a lot of stinky car rides home is whether or not the inner pads are removable? Having a removable padding system makes for an easy wash. You will also always want to make sure you have got the right size shoulder pads on your player; too big and they can slip out of place, too little and they restrict your player and don’t absorb as much shock.
A Short History Of Shoulder Pads
American football has come a long way since the rather humble first game between New Jersey and Rutgers in 1869. Safety equipment didn't even make its appearance until nearly a decade later. Seeing a need to protect the shoulder blades on impact, L.P. Smock designed the first shoulder pads. They offered little protection, and were not much more than an extra layer of padding sewn into the players’ jersey. The lack of protection in American football players led to 20 deaths in one year, prompting President Theodore Roosevelt to threaten a ban on the sport unless changes were made.
Some changes were made immediately. The rather dangerous flying wedge formation was banned, and a set of rules was established for the burgeoning game. But safety equipment? Well, it took over twenty years to really come around. The first real shoulder pads didn’t make their debut until the 1930s. These shoulder pads roughly resembled the shoulder pads still in use today. They covered the shoulders and chest, had a pull-over design, and were tightened in the front by large laces. At first, players rejected these heavy pads. Glen Scobey “Pop” Warner was the first coach to make his teams wear protective equipment, ushering in a new era of safety awareness in American Football.
Shoulder pads were constantly improved upon, but the modern harness style was not introduced until the 1980s. This is when manufacturers started to use lightweight foam and plastics to create the shoulder pads. The 1980s also saw the introduction of the cantilever pads, which dispersed the impact of a hit into the pads rather than into the body.
Today’s shoulder pads are far superior, both in safety and performance. Players can now enjoy materials that keep them cool, while also providing the necessary armor to protect their body for every minute of gameplay.