A personal connection and a financial commitment have put Greenhill at the cutting edge of football player safety.
This season, the Hornets are among the first high schools in Texas to outfit each of its players with the Vicis Zero1. The helmet, widely used at the professional and college level, and has recently become more widely available.
The helmet utilizes technology allowing its outer shell to morph on contact. It ranked first in the NFL’s Laboratory Performance Testing program every year since being introduced in 2016.
Greenhill head coach Casey Selfridge was coaching at Lakeside, a private school in Seattle,when he first learned of Vicis, which was based nearby. The startup’s CEO also had a child at the school.
“Safety and excellence go hand-in-hand, and equipment is just one of those pieces.” -Casey Selfridge
“It kind of blew me away with the technology,” Selfridge said. “Safety and excellence go hand-in-hand, and equipment is just one of those pieces. If there’s an opportunity to be as safe as possible, then we’re going to take a look at it.”
Greenhill’s administration agreed. The Zero1 helmets became available to high school programs just as the school’s old helmets neared the end of their life cycle.
“Greenhill likes to be at the forefront instead of just reacting,” said Greenhill athletic trainer Matt Blimline. “The safety of football is very much in the public eye. This is a whole new concept.”
The helmet replaces the traditional polycarbonate shell with a flexible polymer designed to absorb impact load and reduce pressure on the skull. The exterior can form and bend slightly on contact.
The Greenhill helmets were customized for each player, based on measurements taken last spring. Although they provide a specific fit, the helmets can be adjusted or reconfigured in multiple places. They were manufactured over the summer and delivered in time for fall practice.
“The school is taking all of the necessary steps to make football safer for our kids,” said firstyear Greenhill athletic director Jarrett Shine. “We’re willing to pay that price in order to make the sport safe.”
Selfridge said equipment is one component of a comprehensive safety plan that includes on-field technique, strength and conditioning, and sports medicine. He said Greenhill players have responded favorably to the new headgear, and not just for the safety factor.
“They can see it in college and the NFL,” Selfridge said. “They love it.”