Making Football Safer with Tackle Rings

The game of football is always progressing. Whether it’s playing styles, coaching techniques, or safety equipment, continued development is essential to success. With the rise in awareness on the impact of concussions; players, coaches, and equipment manufacturers have been asked to change their thinking, and find ways to make the game we love safer. Helmet manufacturers have continued to design, test, and produce safer helmets for players to wear. The issue being, it will be nearly impossible to develop a concussion proof helmet. The fact is that the game is physical, and being played a pace faster than ever before. What may be more important to protecting players is the rethinking of how we teach and play the game.

Leagues from the NFL down to Pop Warner have changed rules to protect defenseless players, and help limit the amount of traumatic collisions. This has seen some success, but it has far from solved the bigger problem. Some innovative thinkers have looked to other sports to find inspiration on how to make the game safer. One place some turned to is the birthplace of football, the sport of Rugby. More popular overseas, rugby is the pad-less version of football that can almost seems barbaric from a distance. But when you dig in a bit further, you’ll see that the lack of padded protection has forced rugby players and coaches to figure out ways to tackle and contest without putting themselves in harm’s way. By introducing helmets and shoulder pads into a tackle situation, what it has allowed football players in the past to do is turn themselves into a weapon. Without the worries of lasting effects, players for decades have launched head first into collisions. But without this protection, rugby players have devised a different tackling style, that focuses on shoulder placement and wrapping of the arms to take down their opponents. This hasn’t removed concussions from the sport of rugby, but it has allowed for less concussions to occur, particularly when compared to the sport of football.

NFL teams such as the Seattle Seahawks, and college programs like the University of Washington and Ohio State have decided to adapt this “rugby style” of tackling, in hopes protecting their players and improving their performance. In 2014, Ohio State decided to full embrace this technique, with wholesale changes to how the taught, practiced, and executed the tackle. This lead to them not only limiting injuries, but also to an improving their defense and a National Championship.

One important part to teaching the rugby tackling technique was the development of new drills and training equipment. A piece of gear that had been used in rugby for years was the tackle ring. The round bag, designed to replicate a moving player, allowed coaches to teach their players how to readjust their body and perform a safer tackle. Traditional football tackling techniques would have players put their head in front of a ball carrier, using it to slow them down. But the rugby tackling method teaches players to place their heads behind the ball carrier, lessening the likeness of a collision directly to the head, and forcing players to rely on shoulder placement and wrapping of the arms. It is one thing to introduce this new technique on a stationary bag, but it’s the making that adjust on the move that leads to its success.  This is where the tackle ring or tackle wheel, plays an instrumental role. It provides safe repetitions for individual players, allowing them to correctly develop or reteach themselves how to perform a safe tackle.

Tackling rings have become an essential part of any teams training regimen. From Pop Warner to the pros, teaching players how to safely tackle will be a crucial step in making football a safer game.

Get football tackle rings and all your other football training equipment from Sports Unlimited.

Written By Dylan Hamilton, Sports Unlimited

2017 Sports Unlimited Scholarship Winner – Rocket Grade Defense

We know the future is bright, as today’s young minds continue to astonish us all with their ingenuity. At Sports Unlimited, we understand the importance of fostering this brilliance, and continued education is a key piece to this equation. That is why the annual Sports Unlimited Scholarship was created, providing assistance to those who will drive us forward.

Requiring an essay submission on a particular topic, the scholarship is awarded to the individual who best displays creative thinking and resourcefulness. This year’s prompt asked students to identify a piece of gear or equipment currently used in a sport and describe how to improve it and why. Over a thousand essays were sent in, each of which described an innovative vision. Covering a range of sports and equipment from football to fencing, basketball to badminton.

This year’s winner took on the popular topic of football helmet improvement, but was able to pull from a unique source of inspiration. Using the design elements of the space shuttle, Paul Wasuwanich of Orlando, Florida was able to provide a compelling argument for how the football helmet should be redeveloped. And because of this, Sports Unlimited was proud to offer him a scholarship of a $1000, as he heads off to the University of Notre Dame this fall.

Read Paul’s submission, entitled “Rocket Grade Defense”:

Paul Wasuwanich, Timber Creek High School – Orlando, FL

Astronauts and football players have a lot more in common than many might think. They both work in extreme environment and therefore require extreme protection. Astronauts must survive in the harsh environments of space full of deadly radiation, destructive space debris, and freezing temperatures. Football players, on the other hand, must survive on the dangerous football field full of 300 pound opponents ready to tackle them with up to one ton of force, about 4 times the force required to crush a human skull according the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics [4]. To protect from such threats, engineers have devised multiple defenses to keep astronauts and football players safe. One of those defenses is the helmet.

                A football helmet is as important to the player as a space helmet is to an astronaut. Fatality is imminent if that crucial device is absent. It is easy to see how a man would suffocate in space without his space helmet, but harder to visualize the internal damage a football player suffers with each blow to the head. According to statistics from the NFL, there were 271 diagnosed concussions in the 2015 season [2]. Having closely studied the brain with my professor, Dr. Mohtashem Samsam, a neurologist from the University of Central Florida, I understand clearly that the previously mentioned 271 concussions is much more than the number suggests. Concussions result from severe head trauma, but football players receive much more head traumas that do not produce acute effects such as the concussion. A progressive degenerative disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) plagues football players who have received severe or multiple head traumas. In a 2014 study from Boston University, of 79 brains from former NFL players, 76 tested positive for CTE [1]. Brains with CTE are similar in appearance and function to brains with Huntington’s disease.

                Today, we are so used to hearing about football concussions that they have become accepted as inevitable, but they are not. Over the years, football equipment has improved, reducing the number of concussions and the severity of brain damage. No helmets became leather helmets, and leather helmets became the modern football helmets we see today. The modern helmet is still not sufficient and can be further improved to reduce the number of concussions even more.

                In space, an astronaut’s first line of defense are walls of his spacecraft which are designed to protect against space debris moving at up to an astonishing 17,500 mph [5]. This technology can be applied to the football helmet. The walls of spacecrafts come in my varieties, but they have the same basic design, multiple layers of a thin, light, hard material (e.g. aluminum alloy) with soft material (e.g. foam) in between [3]. The goal of this defense is not to deflect the impacting object as football helmets do, but to significantly reduce the force of the object so that it would not penetrate the inner walls of the spacecraft. The outer walls of the spacecraft do two things to prevent penetration of the spacecraft, one of those is increasing the time it takes the object to hit inner walls. It is a physics concept shown by the formula:

I = FΔt

I = Impulse or change in momentum

F = Force

Δt = Change in time

In this case, the impulse is constant, so by increasing the time of impact, we can decrease the force of object when it hits in the inner wall. Having alternating layers of hard and soft defenses means the object or shock wave must pass through multiple materials with different properties. It takes a shock wave more time to pass through two different materials than one material of the same amount. The football helmet should be designed as such: A thin outer layer of a hard, light material (e.g. carbon fiber), followed by a soft material (e.g. foam), a hard material again, a soft material again, then a thick hard layer, and finally a soft cushion for the head.

                Other than increasing the time of impact, the outer walls of the spacecraft also deforms. Deformation, unlike deflection, absorbs the energy of the impact. A football player wearing a helmet that deforms on impact will experience less force to the head than a football player wearing a helmet that deflects the impact force. The reason cars crumble in crashes is not because of the force of impact, but because engineers designed the car to absorb as much energy as possible by deforming in order to protect the driver. Although football helmets that deform on impact will have to be frequently replaced, it is worth the improvement in safety.

                Broken bones can heal, torn muscles can be repaired, but dead brain cells cannot be replaced, therefore, head protection in a sport as aggressive as American football is of uttermost importance.

Sports Unlimited would like to thank all of those who submitted an essay for this year’s scholarship. We will be sharing a few of our other finalist’s ideas in the near future. The prompt for the 2018 Sports Unlimited Scholarship will be available soon, so be sure to check back!

Written By Dylan Hamilton, Sports Unlimited

 

2017 Football Equipment Reviews – Youth

As summer is upon us, we know many across the country are already dreaming of the fall. Football fast approaches, and we’ll spend the next few months anticipating our favorite College and NFL Football teams seasons, and in many cases, gearing up for our own. No matter what level you play at, having the right equipment for the upcoming year is essential. From helmets to pants, shoulder pads to receiver gloves, every player wants the safest gear that will allow them to perform at their best.

We at Sports Unlimited wanted to do our best in helping you prepare, by giving you some insight on newest products from the sports leading manufactures. Over the next several weeks, we’ll highlight some recently released equipment, focusing on the new technology and features. This will allow you to make informed decisions on your purchases for next season.

Our first installment looks at some of the new gear that youth football players will be wearing this year. While the speed of the game is slower, the importance of safety is no less. We’ll take a look at several pieces of equipment that will help protect the upper body of our future football stars, as they foster their passion for the game.

Helmet – Schutt Vengeance Z10 Youth

The most essential piece of football equipment is undoubtedly the helmet. Offering protection to the most valuable asset, a youth football helmet is worthy of upgrade investment. While the Schutt Vengeance Z10  was released in 2016, it is now for the first time available in youth sizes in 2017. The only difference it has with its adult counterpart is the ABS Plastic shell. This shell is durable, lightweight, and required by most youth football leagues. The Z10 from Schutt is a top of the line helmet, packed with all their design features that offer a great fit and defense against contact to the head. A few notable features for the Z10 are its Titanium facemask, which significantly lightens the helmet and lessens the strain on a young players neck. It also comes with internal and external cheek stabilizers for reinforced protection.  Available in a range of colors and facemask styles to get the custom look you desire.

Shoulder Pads – Riddell Surge Youth

While youth football shoulder pads aren’t exposed to the intense impact hits of varsity pads, it is still important to have the necessary protection. Riddell has released a new high-end youth shoulder pad for 2017, unveiling their Riddell Surge and its premium look and feel. The most noticeable feature on these pads is the level of padded protection. Some youth pads can limited in the padding, but the Surge offers excellent coverage of the shoulders, chest, and back. The lower back is also looked after with the inclusion of matching back plate. With a velvet collar and flat pad design that sits low on the shoulders, the Riddell Surge is great option for next season.

Rib Protector – Xenith Xflexion Core Guard

You will typically receive sufficient coverage of the upper body with a good pair of football shoulder pads. But for those who play a position that takes extra hits, the added protection of a rib protector is just what the doctor ordered. The Xenith Xflexion Core Guard is a versatile option that allows you to customize the protection you receive. The rib pads on the Xflexion can be adjusted or removed, letting you use this as just a back plate as well. The Xenith’s also come with their own shoulder strap, letting you use them with or without shoulder pads. Size specifically to the dimensions of a youth player, the Xenith Xflexion is exceptional choice.

Back Plate – Gear Pro-Tec Razor Back Plate

The last piece to the upper body protection equation is the addition of a back plate. Some shoulder pads come with a back plate, and some rib protectors have one built in. But for those that don’t already have the lower back coverage they desire, than the Gear Pro-Tec Razor back plate is a perfect solution. Using the same technology found in their highly rated shoulder pads, the Razor back plate features Compressed HEX foam side panels and SAS-TEC foam spine inserts. These make for a lightweight, breathable protection of the lower back and spine. Works for all Gear Pro-Tec Razor and Z-Cool shoulder pads, as well as fitting most other brand pads with its universal T-nut and screw attachment.

Written By Dylan Hamilton, Sports Unlimited

Best Mouth Guards – Top 5

When preparing for participation in a contact sport, one thing you certainly don’t want to go light on is protection. If its football you’re gearing up for, you wouldn’t want to run onto the field without a helmet and shoulder pads. And while some protection is obvious, one the most important pieces of equipment across all sports comes in a small package. The mouth guard, mouthpiece, gum shield, or whatever you want to call it, is essential in protecting athletes heads and their beautiful smiles.

We’re all familiar with $1 yellow mouthguard that you would boil the morning before the game and probably lose before the day was over. They were bulky, uncomfortable, and you couldn’t speak with it in your mouth. But like most articles of sports equipment, the mouth guard has continued on a path of development, making it safer and more comfortable than ever. Today’s mouthpieces are lighter, allow for easy breathing, come in flavors, and can even be a fashion statement with their wide range of colors and patterns. Athletes everywhere, from basketball, football, rugby, lacrosse, hockey, and more are protecting their grills with one of these new mouth guards. With a multitude of options, we wanted to highlight our top 5 standouts that have taken mouthguard protection to the next level.

  1. Battle Digi Camo Oxygen Lip Protector

There are two types of mouth guards, those that provide lip protection, and those that don’t. Many sports, such as football, prefer the lip coverage given the physical natural of play. One disadvantage to lip protection used to be that it was difficult to breathe with. But with Battle Sports new Digi Camo Oxygen, and its 293% larger breathing hole, that problem is no longer relevant. Now you can perform at your highest level with maximum protection.  Available in three colorful digital camo patterns, the Battle Digi Camo Oxygen Lip Protector is a great addition to any player’s game day protection.

  1. Shock Doctor Double Braces Mouthguard

One issue that many youth players run into when search for the right mouthpiece is the addition of braces to the equation. Often uncomfortable on their own, adding a mouth guard to the mix is never a simple solution. But with metal braces covering the teeth, it’s more important than ever that an athlete have this layer of protection. The last thing you want is those expensive braces breaking and cutting the inside of the mouth. Among the leaders in the mouth guard industry, Shock Doctor has developed a product that solves this predicament. The Shock Doctor Double Braces Mouthguard uses an innovative Ortho-Channel to fit around both the upper and lower brace brackets. It will also adapt to changing tooth positions as the braces are adjusted and features a breathing channel in the center to allow for air flow. Now players (and parents) can rest assure that they have full proof protection.

  1. Nike Hyperflow Flavored Mouthguard

Leave it up to today’s minds to design a mouth guard that tastes as good as it protects. Among other brands, Nike has developed their Hyperflow Flavored mouthpiece to provide long lasting flavor game after game. But this mouthguard isn’t just tasty, it also delivers excellent protection with its Dual-Density construction. The Nike Hyperflow also features its O-Flow breathing channels that allow for maximum oxygen intake on the field or court. Available in several different flavor options, the Nike Hyperflow Flavored mouth guards is perfect for anyone’s tastes.

  1. Shock Doctor Gel Max Convertible Mouthguard

Shock Doctor has been at the forefront of advancement when it comes to mouth protection. Offering a range of options that suit any athlete’s particular needs. The Gel Max Convertible mouthpiece is a perfect example of the best they have to offer. Firstly, it comes with an Exoskeletal shock frame that provides excellent protection and durability. A triple layer design with integrated breathing channels allows for breathability when you’re out performing.  The Gel-Fit liner makes for a comfortable fit and the convertible tether lets you use this mouthguard with or without a strap. This all-around mouth guard is available in four different colors, and at a value that is sure to be appreciated.

  1. Sisu NextGen Max Mouthguard

Sisu is a relatively new name to the mouth guard industry, but don’t let that fool you. They have offered a revolutionary design to the moldable mouthpiece that is changing how we think of mouth protection. The one complaint many athletes shared, was that face that a mouthguard was bulky, breathing restricting, and limited the ability to communicate on the playing field. In some cases, players wouldn’t wear them at all because of this, putting their safety in jeopardy. Sisu has designed a mouth guard that is as functional as it is protective. Offering a solution to these previous complaints and providing a protection option to those who refused to wear a mouthguard before. The NextGen Max is incredibly lightweight but built to handle even more impact. The best feature is that this mouthguard fits so securely in the mouth, that it allows athletes to talk, drink, and breathe as if it wasn’t even there. This is possible from a combination of its innovative molding process and the 2.4 mm thick design. Making it 30% thinner and up to 50% stronger than your traditional mouth guard. This new way of thinking is what makes the Sisu NextGen Max our number on pick for best mouth guard.

-Written By Dylan Hamilton, Sports Unlimited

Benefits of Training Basketballs

If you want to be a better basketball player, there is only one way to do it. Arriving early and staying late. Countless hours in the gym putting up an endless number of shots. Relentlessly working on the fundamentals of the game, with an uncompromising will to improve. Yes, we are talking about practice… not a game, but practice. If you ask around the NBA who the hardest working players were, one name rises to the top.

In his decorated 20 year career, Kobe Bryant never once stopped working to get better. Everyone has their favorite Kobe workout story, but they all share a common theme. He was up before anyone else, worked out harder than anyone else, and showed an unrivaled determination every single day. Most teammates of Kobe will agree, he was a rare breed. Even those with similar abilities couldn’t match his work ethic. And as the next generation of basketball talent begins to develop its game, they’d be wise to learn a thing or two from one of the best to ever do it.

While you may not be to the point of matching Kobe’s 800 shots a day in your workout routine, there are ways to work more efficiently with your time on the court. Maker of the official NBA game ball, Spalding has also developed a series training basketballs that are designed to improve all facets of your game. Offering both weighted and oversized basketballs that feel and bounce just like regular balls. These tools can be the difference between a good player, and a great one.

Weighted basketballs have been around for years, and their effectiveness is backed by the testimonials of players everywhere. Many think a weighted ball is just for improving shooting range, which it does. But using a weighted ball to improve dribbling, passing, catching, and rebounding is just as impactful. The weighted basketball builds up the muscles in the arms, as well as strengthens the fingers and wrists. This leads to better grip on the ball and more control. Spalding makes balls weighing both 3 lbs and 6 lbs, allowing you to choose the appropriate size for your abilities. So whether you’re unleashing a lethal crossover or sliding a pass to a back door cutter, your command of the ball will provide confidence you need to take over the game.

Similar to the weighted balls, oversized balls can be a useful basketball training aid, as they too promote arm strength and enhanced ball control. But what these 33” sized balls do best is improve accuracy. The increased size is 12% larger than a standard ball, forcing players to be more precise with their shots. These balls can be particular effective for shots that require extra touch. Low post hook shots and in-the-lane floaters are both challenging, and demand additional practice. The inclusion of an oversized ball to the training regimen can play a vital part in the improvement with these specific skills.

You may not show up for practice 7 hours early like Mr. Bryant would. But you can take your training to the next level, and see your game elevate to its potential. Add a training basketball to your routine and take a step towards greatness.

Written by Dylan Hamilton, Sports Unlimited

 

Best Baseball Backpacks – Top 5

With baseball season upon us, players everywhere will be grabbing their gloves, bats, and cleats to head over to the nearest diamond. Keeping track of all your equipment can sometimes be a trying task, particularly if you’re in a rush out the door. Today’s top Baseball and Softball brands have addressed this issue, taking the convenience of a backpack and combining it with the effectiveness of a traditional equipment bag. The Batpacks, as they are often referred to, have become a staple for most players who need to transport their gear from place to place. With space for bats, gloves, cleats, and helmets, these bags keep everything together in an organized fashion.

But deciding which Bat Backpack is going to suit your needs best can be as complicated as hitting a curve-ball. To make this process as easy as possible, we’ve put together our Top 5 Baseball Backpacks from the leading manufacturers. Broken down by their different design features and value, choosing your next bag is simpler than ever.

  1. Mizuno Organizer G4 Batpack

The Mizuno Organizer G4 is the perfect bag to start our Top 5 because it is
the perfect bag for a baseball beginner. Complete with all the standard features like dual bat holders, felted valuables pocket, and J Hook fence clip, this backpack has space for the essentials. This bag is ideal for newcomers in part because of its simplistic design. It gets what you need, where you need it, without complication. It is also at a price point that allows you to confidently purchase, knowing you’ve got a great value from a brand like Mizuno.

  1. Louisville Slugger Series 7 Stick Pack

The Series 7 Stick Pack from Louisville Slugger is an excellent option for any ball player. With plenty of room for all your gear in the main compartment, an additional cargo pocket in the front is great for those who require extra space when headed to the ball park. Two Neoprene bat sleeves offer additional protection to your bats during transport, and the padded back straps make this Backpack comfortable to carry. Easy to load from the top and available in 8 different colors to match your team colors.

  1. Under Armour Undeniable Batpack

Under Armour has quickly become one of the most popular brands in baseball. What’s noticeable in the Undeniable Bag, as with their other products, is that performance driven technology is featured in all of their designs. Using the same water resistant STORM treatment found on their rain gear, this backpack was developed to keep your equipment safe and dry. Space for 4 bats and a helmet/cleat specific compartment lets you store everything you’ll need.

 

  1. DeMarini Voodoo Rebirth Backpack

The DeMarini Voodoo Rebirth is an exceptional combination of performance and value. Loaded with features that are found on more expensive bags, the DeMarini is unsurprisingly one of the most popular bags on the market. A generously large main compartment, neoprene bat sleeves, and vented cleat compartment are all wrapped in a waterproof shell. Spacious, durable, and easy to transport, the DeMarini Voodoo Rebirth is a standout amongst others.

  1. Easton Walk-Off Backpack

It’s no coincidence that Easton named their most popular bag the Walk-Off, as it’s undeniably a winner. Two stand out features make this our top pick in a very competitive market. Firstly, Easton has designed an external helmet holder that has freed up valuable space for you to store more equipment inside the bag. Secondly, an additional external padded compartment in the back is ideal for large valuables like a laptop, or extra clothes. The addition of these two space increasing designs, paired with today’s baseball backpack standard features, make the Easton Walk-Off our first choice in getting your gear to field.

Written by Dylan Hamilton, Sports Unlimited

Hugo Lloris and his Goalie Gloves

There are no secrets about the importance of a keeper in Soccer. While strikers attract the headlines and record transfer fees, the back bone to a successful club begins with the player between the sticks. With a sport that is simplistic in its equipment demands, the most significant piece for the most important position, are the gloves. Designed to provide protection, grip, and confidence; a good set of goalie gloves are worth their weight in gold. Most keepers will test out several types of gloves in their pursuit of the right ones. And once they find a brand they like, they become incredibly loyal for years to come.

This exact tale transpired for goalie Hugo Lloris. As the Captain of his club team Tottenham Hotspurs and national team France, he knows a thing or two about stop the ball. During his academy days, he had experimented with various styles and brands of gloves. He soon fell in love with a particular pair, and has since then stuck with them through thick and thin. With a combined 459 appearances for his club and country, it’s safe to say he has depended on his gloves on more than a few occasions.

goalkeeper Hugo Lloris of France during the UEFA EURO 2016 final match between Portugal and France on July 10, 2016 at the Stade de France in Paris, France.(Photo by VI Images via Getty Images)

Regarded as one of the top goalkeepers in the world, it’s no wonder Uhlsport has made him the face of their brand. Hugo began to wear Uhlsport gloves in the early 2000’s during his time spent in the OGC Nice academy. Over a decade later, he still depends on them to provide him the confidence he needs to perform on the biggest stages. During the 2016 UEFA EURO Cup final with France, Hugo debuted the Uhlsport Eliminator SuperGrip in his signature Black, Blue, and Green. He has since continued to wear them for his matches with the Tottenham Hotspurs, where he has accounted for 10 clean sheets and allowed the least amount of goals among regular starters.

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 22: Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper Hugo Lloris during the Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Tottenham Hotspur at Vitality Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Bournemouth, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill – AMA/Getty Images)

What makes these goalie gloves so special is the SuperGrip foam used in the construction of the palm. It’s designed specifically to provide remarkable grip in any condition, which has been beneficial for the rainy conditions of the U.K. They also feature a silicon and high frequency latex backing with a 3D-embossed SCHOCKZONE. This allows the high rebound foam on the back of the hand to enhance the punching performance and provide additional protection. Complete with Uhlsport’s Easy Entry System and 360 wrap, a secure fit is effortlessly achieved with this glove.

While a great pair of goalie gloves isn’t the only thing that makes Hugo Lloris such a formidable present in goal, it’s certainly doesn’t hurt. Gear up with all your goalkeeper needs at Sports Unlimited.

 

 

Written by Dylan Hamilton, Sports Unlimited

Breaking Down the Wilson A2000 Game Model Gloves

There is no arguing Wilson’s place among the leaders when it comes to producing high end baseball gloves. Countless Major Leaguers turn to Wilson for their glove needs, speaking volumes to the quality and performance of their products. When you think of Wilson baseball gloves, the first thing that comes to mind is the A2000. Since it was first released in 1957, the Wilson A2000 has become the benchmark for professional gloves. It was the first of its kind with a large web and broad pocket, and would be the foundation for every glove developed by any manufactures from that point on.

Fast forward to today, and you’ll see the likes of Dustin Pedroia, Miguel Cabrera, and Robinson Canó all wearing A2000’s as they compete with the world’s best. As you would expect, every pro has a particular fit and feel that they prefer. Wilson have always been persistent in acquiring feedback from professionals, allowing them to develop an improved product. Some of the headliners on their roster of MLB players have even been giving their own Game Models, which are produced for the masses. It should come as no surprise that these particular gloves have become some of the most popular on the market. If it’s good enough for these guys, surely it’s good enough for me?

So as you prepare to purchase your very own Wilson glove, perhaps you want to know a bit more about what makes these Game Models different from the standard A2000. One thing you can expect from any of these gloves are a few of the cornerstones that come with any A2000. This includes the premium pro stock leather, selected for its durability and feel. Dual Welting, which adds two strips of leather to back of each finger to provide structure and stability as the glove breaks in. And finally, the Dri-Lex wrist lining keeps the hand dry and free of moisture.

What sets the Game Models and standard gloves apart can usually be broken down into a few categories. Colors, web styles, and fit are the three ways most pro’s make these gloves their own. Color being the simplest to understand, most choose a colorway that matches their team or gives a traditional look. Jose Altuve features navy and orange leather to match his Houston Astros uniform, while Clayton Kershaw has opted for the traditional all-black.

With today’s gloves, there are endless ways to lace up your web. When it comes to the Game Models on the Wilson A2000, each player has chosen their own particular web that suits them and their style of play. Miguel Cabrera has gone with a signature V-Laced pattern on a wider single post web, allowing him to lock the ball in the pocket. Clayton Kershaw has selected a deep and closed 2-piece web that allows him to conceal the ball and any grip changes, granting him the element of surprise.

The final way professional ball players have personalized their game model gloves is with the fit. No one is more particular with this category than Golden Glove Second Baseman Dustin Pedroia. Wilson developed the “Pedroia Fit” specifically for him, as his smaller hands required some custom features. This included a lower finger divider, narrower opening, thin heel pad, and longer laces. The Pedroia Fit is available on three A2000 gloves, one of which features Wilson’s SuperSkin, designed to lighten the glove without sacrificing durability.

While you may not be fielding ground balls at Fenway Park anytime soon, that doesn’t mean your glove is any less important. Described by Jose Altuve as his “tool”, he carries his glove with him on the plane any time he travels. We know you feel the same way about your glove. Check out Sports Unlimited large selection of premium gloves from Wilson, Mizuno, Rawlings, and More, to find the perfect glove for you.

Written By Dylan Hamilton, Sports Unlimited

Best Youth Catchers Sets – Top 5

One of the toughest decisions made gearing up for the 2017 baseball season is which equipment is best for those behind the plate? As kids continue to grow, sizing always becomes important, not to mention the significance of safety. Today’s top baseball brands all manufacturer youth catchers gear sets to simplify the shopping process. These catchers sets all include a helmet, chest protector, and leg guards. One question that still needs to be answered, what is the best youth catchers set for me?

With such a wide variety of manufacturers and different lines, it can be a bit overwhelming deciding which set of pads to purchase. You can visit our Catchers Gear Buyers Guide to see exactly was size you’ll be looking for. Once you have that, you can review our selection of Top 5 youth catchers sets, to see which best matches your needs.

5. Louisville Slugger Series 5 Youth Catchers Set

The Series 5 youth from Louisville Slugger is everything you need from a youth catchers set. Featuring a hockey style mask that offers excellent protection and a moisture-wicking chin pad that keeps your little leaguer comfortable. The Chest protector is made with a high density foam and quick release over-the-shoulder harness make for east on and off. Complete with the double knee design shin guards for extra protection. The Series 5 youth is perfect for a team set, or someone just learning the position. With a variety of color options and a friendly price point, the Louisville Slugger youth catchers gear set is an excellent value at number 5.

4. Easton M5 Qwikfit Youth Catchers Set

The M5 Qwikfit youth set offered by Easton certainly had parents and coaches in mind during its design process. The greatest feature to this set of helmet, chest protector, and leg guards is undoubtedly the Qwikfit strap system. Developed specifically to make for easy adjustments by the player, no longer are coaches or parents forced to help players get ready to go onto the field. This is particularly important if the set is being shared by a team with kids coming in different shapes and sizes. Offered with a range of other features that you would find on a higher level set, including steel wire cage for improved visibility, multi layer perforations to keep you cool, and a TruBlock anti-roll designed leg guard that increase stability and protection. All of this, plus a reasonable price, make the Easton M5 Qwikfit youth gear our recommendation for the ideal team set.

3. All Star System Seven Youth Camo Pro Catchers Set

The All Star System Seven Youth Camo Pro Catchers Set is everything is sounds like and more. This set offered by All Star is essentially their professional level pads scaled down to fit a youth player. Everything from removable liners and an I-Bar vision cage on the helmet. To moldable protective plates in the chest protector and a Patella Plus gel knee pad in the shin guards. This catcher set has all the bells and whistles, and will outperform most sets like it. It finds itself at number 3 for one simple reasons. This set was designed for serious players, and the pricing reflects that. For most players at the youth level, this is probably more than they need. But if your a serious player on a travel ball club, than the All Star System Seven catchers set is the one for you.

2. Under Armour Junior Pro Youth Catchers Set

Under Armour has quickly become one of the most popular brands when it comes to baseball equipment. The reason for this is their dedication to designing cutting edge products that perform and protect. The Junior Pro catchers set follows in that tradition and provides an excellent option for all youth players. The helmet comes with the I-Bar vision from professional helmets with a sleekly designed ABS plastic shell. The chest protector has plastic inserts for extra protection and a customizable strap and harness system for optimal fit. Triple knee designed leg guards are extremely comfortable with 38 ventilation ports. Carefully designed from head to toe, the Under Armour Junior Pro could easily have been number, but still remains an excellent choice for any youth ball player.

1. Mizuno Samurai Youth Catchers Set 

As our top choice for youth catchers gear, the Mizuno Samurai is easily the most popular set offered by Sports Unlimited. A perfect combination of protection, performance, personalization, and price; it’s no surprise the Samurai is king. All the features you’d expect from a top pick; including 3-Layer EVA foam padding in the helmet, patented detachable wings for a customizable fitting chest protector, and flexible lightweight leg guards. What sets the Mizuno Samurai apart is the wide range of color options. No other set comes with a variety like the 17 colors offered by Mizuno. This allows you to match your team, or stand out. At a price that is competitive with the other top catchers sets, the Mizuno Samurai is our top pick for youth catchers gear set.

Check out all of Sports Unlimited Youth Catchers Gear

Written By Dylan Hamilton, Sports Unlimited

Why don’t more Pros use Nokona gloves?

As you turn on the television to watch your favorite ball club battle it out for 9 innings, one thing there’s no shortage of is brand logos. From outfield walls to athlete cleats, a wide range of sporting good companies pay top dollar to catch your eye. Many house hold names like Nike, Under Armour, Wilson, and Rawlings are easy to spot, as the game’s best put them on every day. But one brand many baseball enthusiast may see missing, is that of the historic Nokona.

Now if you didn’t grow up playing baseball or softball, you may not know who Nokona is. Specializing in premium gloves, you certainly wouldn’t find these gloves on a clearance rack at your local sporting goods store. But if you have grown up around the sport, than the name Nokona will more often than not be associated with quality and craftsmanship.

This small company based out of Nocona, TX has been making baseball gloves for over 80 years. Since 1934, gloves have been handcrafted in the United States, emphasizing quality above all. Ask great Nolan Ryan about Nokona, and he’ll tell you the story of buying his first Nokona glove as a kid. What has separated this company over the years, from other larger brands, is their commitment to only make and produce gloves in the United States. The founder Robert Storey once said the day the he had to import gloves was the day he’d quit and go fishing. Gloves from Mizuno, Wilson, and Rawlings are all produced throughout Asia, and brought in to the US market. While this is no knock on their quality or performance, many put value on where their glove is made.

Being a small company, Nokona has always fought for a place in the spotlight. In the early 2000’s, investors came to the manufacturer with hopes of growing the brand to a much larger stage. Efforts were made, and money was spent on endorsement deals with team and players. Things were looking up and the name began to circulate outside just those most enthralled with the sport. But then came the economic down turn, and with it went the cash flow. Struggling to stay operating, Nokona was forced to scale back all their marketing efforts.

Nokona is now owned by parent company Cutters Sports. They specialize in gloves of a different kind, and can be seen on the hands NFL players every Sunday. But this new ownership has not changed the product, or where and how it’s made. They continue to make a premium glove for all ages, using only American materials and labor. You will see a handful of up and coming MLB and Minor league players using Nokona gloves, headlined by Chicago White Sox second baseman Tyler Saladino and Philadelphia Phillies Pitcher Jerad Eickhoff. But it is unlikely you will see headliners donning the iconic Nokona Indian logo anytime soon, as endorsement deals continue reach astronomical figures. Instead, Nokona will stick to what they do best. Making great gloves in America, for America’s pastime.

While you may not see many Major Leaguers wearing Nokona gloves, that doesn’t speak to their quality or performance. Ask anyone who has owned a Nokona glove, and they will likely speak of it as if it were a long lost love, rather than a piece of sporting equipment. Scroll through today’s forums, and you will hear the overwhelming praise sung by Nokona owners as they describe the quality felt every time you put on the glove. Making both softball and baseball gloves, the Nokona brand has won the hearts of many ball players over the years, and looks to continue to do so in the future.

 Written by Dylan Hamilton, Sports Unlimited