Selecting Football Uniforms

Selecting Football Uniforms From The Inside-Out

Kevin Udell knows a thing or two about building things. Early in his career, he was an industrial engineer with Chicago Bridge & Iron Co., a large engineering, procurement and construction company headquartered out of Chicago. These days, he helps coaches build football uniforms. As Vice President of Team Sales for Team Express in San Antonio, Texas, he is integral in leading the way for apparel and equipment providers across all sports.

Uniforms are special, according to Udell, because they represent – more than any other piece of equipment – a program’s brand, its heritage and even signals how a program views itself. The choices that go into uniform selection are complex and varied, but the process of selecting a uniform is typically governed by three primary variables coaches should understand: timing, budget and specification.

Timing The Purchase Of Your Football Uniforms

For high school and college coaches seeking to outfit their entire team head-to-toe with brands like Adidas, Nike and Under Armour, they must understand that there are different time requirements to get the job done.

Each of those brands typically has a custom, semi-custom and stock offering of football uniforms.

“If you’re talking about full custom, design from scratch, cut and sew, obviously the lead time is greater,” says Udell. “The full custom is usually about 60 days in the traditional sense for head-to-toe buyers. Semi-custom is typically
45 days, and even with stock items, there is still a time requirement. It has to be picked, packed and shipped, and that could be done in as little as 24 hours or as much as three weeks. Then you have to complete the decoration on top of that, so it’s around 28 days, even for stock uniforms.

“You’re talking anywhere from a month to three months for customized uniforms at that level.”

Budgeting For Football Uniforms

Concerns over budget are ever-present, regardless of which level you coach at. There are very few programs that “don’t care what it costs” to buy new football uniforms.

At the same time, this industry has undergone and continues to experience disruptive transformation. Years ago, you had to have a doctorate degree and a mile-long checklist to determine what a uniform would cost, and you were typically buying them from a local mom-and-pop screen printer or sporting goods dealer. With modern online uniform builders, coaches can pretty quickly get a good idea what sort of uniform they can afford, typically with a simple pricing model.

That said, if coaches know their budget going into this process, they can save a lot of time and energy, because
budget defines what will be available to them and helps narrow their scope.

“Budget determines what level of product programs can buy,” says Udell. “Budget determines whether they can even consider a custom or semi-custom product from a head-to-toe brand. Otherwise, they may default to a secondary brand or a stock uniform option.”

Football Uniform Specifications

Knowing what you want for your team, and your limitations, is perhaps the most important piece of this puzzle for coaches. Udell says his happiest customers are those who keep their designs less complex.

“The more complex a program’s design, the more opportunity for error or delay in the whole process,” he says. “Coaches need to put a little trust in their sales rep, who’s basically a consultant in this process, so the design looks good, the fonts and logos are easily seen, and the contrast on the uniforms is right.”

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There are also uniform regulations established by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) that programs must follow to remain in compliance. Something as simple as how large uniform numbers are and where they are positioned on a player’s jersey are just two examples of strict rules set by the NFHS.

“Part of what we do is make sure the designs coaches are trying to accomplish remain within standards set for schools,” says Udell.

Individual schools at both university and high school levels also maintain standards that must be adhered to.

“There are logo standards and color standards for these schools,” says Udell. “Coaches should know those going in. I have invariably had schools try to order apparel that’s the wrong color. For example, they’ll order a black jersey, while the school’s colors are blue and white. Or maybe they came up with a cool logo for their team, but it’s not sanctioned by the university. Those are all things that we have to be concerned with.”

Last, Udell says coaches should always order more jerseys than the number of players in their program.

“No one who is running a team – particularly in football where people are tugging and tearing at jerseys – should order ‘just enough’ jerseys,” he says. “There should always be a safety factor involved to cover replacement jerseys. It ends up being extremely frustrating for a coach if he orders just enough for his guys. Invariably, they’ll have a damaged jersey and they’ll need a replacement. Then they run into a minimum order number. That’s a recipe for disaster, particularly at the varsity level. I don’t care if it’s football or if it’s volleyball; you should never order just enough to cover your team.”

This article was written by Paul Markgraff, managing editor of AFCA Magazine and AFCA Insider. Follow him on Twitter at Football Coach Daily.

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