NEW ULM - It is the hot topic as the football season gets going in Minnesota.
That topic is the concussion issue that has prompted changes in equipment and rules for football players from youth to the pros.
The New Ulm Area Youth Football League is being pro-active when it comes to that issue, at a huge financial cost.
"We have purchased 125 new football helmets for our players," said NUAYFL president Pete Guggisberg. "The helmets that we had been using were the same helmets that were bought when the league initially started 16 years ago. We had been reconditioning them every couple of years and what happened was that we were reconditioning between 30 and 40 each year to keep them rotating through. But the last batch that we sent to be reconditioned were sent back to us and we were told that they could not recondition them any more and we needed to get new ones."
Guggisberg said they bought between 30 and 40 new helmets.
"But when we got the new ones in and compared them to the old ones, we realized that it did not look right," he said. "One parent is going to see a nice, new helmet while the next parent will get a reconditioned one."
And with all of the emphasis in youth football on concussion awareness, Guggisberg and the league decided to be pro-active.
"We did not want to react after a player sustains a concussion because of that," he said. "We want to keep the kids playing football. It is a sport that we all love. That is why we made the decision to fundraise - we had not had a fundraiser since we started the league."
Guggisberg said that letters were sent out to the community.
"We had a pretty good response from people who were willing to help us out and cover part of the cost," he said.
The cost of each helmet was $90 for a total cost of approximately $11,250.
"Five or six years ago we did start to put money aside because we knew eventually we were going to need a big purchase of helmets, so we did have some of the monies," he said. "But we did not have $11,000 extra dollars laying around."
Guggisberg said that the numbers for the youth football league here in New Ulm have not dropped because of the concussion concern.
"All of our coaches are trained in the concussion issue training put on by the Minnesota State High School League," he said. "If a player gets a concussion, it is not mom and dad that says when he can come back, it requires a doctor's note."
Greyhounds young this season
New Ulm Cathedral may well have its youngest football team in recent memory this season with 15 sophomores dotting the roster along with 12 freshmen.
"The small class is our junior class with only four playing football, and we have 13 seniors," said Cathedral head coach Denny Lux. "We feel that we will be playing four or five sophomores at a time and they will be helping out that junior class."
Lux wants to see as few players as possible playing both ways in games.
"We want to stay with about five guys playing both ways," he said. "Typically our players from grades 9-12 will learn just one position on the field and not have to double up."
Chargers in new
This season, the Minnesota Valley Lutheran Chargers will be in some uncharted territory as they move to the Gopher Valley 1A Conference for one year.
"We will be playing a couple of teams that we had not played in a long time, or have ever played in Lester Prairie, who had an incredible year last season," coach Jim Buboltz said. "And then we play Blooming Prairie, Mankato Loyola and Faribault Bethlehem Academy. That will take a lot of work from our coaching staff to get the players ready for them."
MVL also plays United South Central twice this season, both games in Wells.
"And we still have Redwood Falls on the schedule, because they are a 3A school," Buboltz said.
The two games against USC saves the Chargers from a game at Pelican Rapids, their only other option for a game.
Eagles have new coaches
In addition to a new head football coach at New Ulm High School in Tony Ortmann, the Eagles also have new blood in assistant coaches Jeff Amundson, Jim Glaubitz and Butch Dwyer. Dwyer played for the Eagles four years ago.