The generosity of some anonymous donors will help with the safety of Fremont High School football players starting this fall.
Joe Sajevic, the executive director of the Fremont Public Schools Foundation, said the donors wanted the organization to facilitate the purchase of 130 Riddell SpeedFlex Helmets for the Tigers. The total cost is about $52,000.
"These are top of the line helmets and it is a pretty neat deal for the kids," Sajevic said.
Creighton Prep and Omaha Public Schools had the helmets last fall, but Fremont is believed to be one of the first schools outside of the metro area to have such impact-monitoring equipment.
"This is one more tool to help our coaches when it comes to the safety of our athletes," Fremont Activities Director Scott Anderson said. "Obviously (the helmets) don't eliminate concussions, but it is something that can help monitor things to keep them safe."
While the helmets feature a modern design to help protect the players, they also come equipped with technology to notify support staff when a major hit has been received to the head.
"There are sensors all through the helmet," Anderson said. "They basically rank hits when they get in the range of 95th to 100th percentile. When that happens, it sends an alert to the sideline. We will have either a trainer or an assistant coach equipped with sideline monitors."
Those monitors will inform the staff when a player receives a hit or repeated blows to the head that should get checked by trainers.
"This technology will alert us to get the player out of the game so we can evaluate them for a concussion," Anderson said.
Information is received each time the helmet is in use.
"The cool thing is it takes data at practices and games," Anderson said. "You can run reports off of the information. For example, every Tuesday at 4:30 you might notice a spike in those type of hits. You can look at what you are doing every Tuesday at 4:30 and change it in order to help with player safety. It helps you evaluate what you are doing so you can adjust if you need to. It is awesome for our kids."
Fremont football coach Seth McClain said the health of the players has always been the top priority of his staff. The technology helps provide another safety net.
"It is just a good tool to check on the well being of players because sometimes you don't know," he said. "There can be a play in the heat of the game way across the field and you can't hear or see (the impact). This is a good monitor and will give us more information so we can protect our guys."
Anderson said the helmets have a lifespan of about 10 years. They will be reconditioned periodically to make sure they are effective from a safety standpoint.
"We'll buy 13 to 15 helmets per year to help with the rotation," he said. "That way by the end of the 10-year lifespan we won't have to buy 100 or more new helmets."
McClain said eighth-graders through juniors were measured earlier this winter for the helmets. While the helmets will go through regular maintenance, players will have them throughout their prep careers.
Seniors next fall acknowledged the generosity of the donors.
"We have 24 or 25 seniors that wrote thank you notes that we gave to Mr. Sajevic to give to the donors," McClain said. "Some of the stuff they wrote was pretty cool. We have some pretty nice stuff here and our booster club does a nice job of taking care of us, but this is above and over the top. This is unbelievable. We are very appreciative of this gesture."
Anderson said the donation speaks volumes about the Fremont community.
"We have people out there that care about the kids and their safety," he said. "These donors are anonymous so they aren't doing it for recognition. They just thought it was the right thing to do and they wanted to give our kids the best equipment possible. We're fortunate to have people like that in Fremont."