Billy Boyd finds himself sidelined at lacrosse practices, wishing he could play the game he loves.
Injuries haven’t sidelined the ninth-grader. Nor have grades or penalties for some kind of rule infraction.
Billy is sidelined because he can’t find a manufacturer that makes a helmet large enough to fit him.
The Cape Henlopen (Lewes, Del.) freshman stands close to 6-2, weighs 230 pounds and has a head that measures 25 1/2 inches around. The average male head is 21 to 23 inches.
He fears he’s already a step behind other players his age, who are pulling away because they can continue to play and practice while he can only watch.
“I feel like I’m being punished,” Billy said. “I’ve lost one year and it looks like I’m not going to be able to play another one.”
It’s been a problem since fourth grade
The helmet issue started for the soft-spoken Boyd in fourth grade. He began having slight headaches then because of his helmet’s snug fit.
The headaches worsened each season. In seventh grade, Boyd began missing practices and games. Then in eighth grade, Boyd had to stop playing because his school’s largest helmet didn’t fit.
Boyd and his father, Bill, held out hope for the 2019 boys lacrosse season at the Delaware Military Academy because they were told by a couple of manufacturers that larger helmets were on the horizon.
In the meantime, Boyd’s dad ordered his son a $290 box lacrosse helmet, which is caged like a hockey helmet.
The newer helmets haven’t been made and the box helmet didn’t fit.
When practices for the Delaware Military Academy boys lacrosse team began a few weeks ago, the elder Boyd said he was told his son couldn’t participate at all for liability reasons.
That prompted Boyd to pull his son out of DMA and send him to Cape Henlopen High School, where he would at least get to participate in conditioning and non-contact drills.
“I’m not knocking DMA, but I just think the rules are not always in the best interest of the kids,” Bill Boyd said. “He should have been allowed to take part in practices so he didn’t fall behind.”
DMA athletic director Michael Ryan said the school wanted Boyd to play, but without a helmet certified by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment, he could not.
“It is an unfortunate issue that there are no helmets that fit all players,” Ryan said. “The manufacturers have refused to make these larger helmets.”
Ryan said despite what Bill Boyd said, the school would have allowed his son to participate in limited practices, similar to Cape Henlopen’s agreement.
Boyd isn’t the only lacrosse player in America with a head that doesn’t fit a standard helmet.
Alex Chu, a freshman at Wheaton College in Massachusetts, told The Boston Globe in February that without an NCAA-approved helmet, he is permitted only to run sprints with the team and cannot play in games. His head is also about 25½ inches around.
Chu, 19, had hoped to use his high school helmet, but it was deemed too cracked and tattered. It also lacked the required NOCSAE approval because it was made by a local manufacturer who fused the front and back of two helmets.
Bill Boyd said he considered fashioning a helmet for his son by cutting a helmet in half and adding a spacer to make the helmet 2 to 3 inches larger. He also looked into having a specially-made helmet but it would have cost $10,000.
But either would have to be NOCSAE-sanctioned and approved by the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association.
“I don’t think the DIAA is open to even look at a helmet that is specially manufactured,” Bill Boyd said. “They did not want to work with me.”
Help might be coming
According to the Boston Globe, helmet manufacturer Cascade-Maverik recently fitted Tehoka Nanticoke, a star player at the University of Albany, which made the Final Four last season, with a larger, custom-made helmet.
The Globe said it confirmed that Nanticoke’s helmet was made after Albany’s coaches and Cascade-Maverik “huddled up.”
Roland LaRose, vice president and general manager for Cascade Maverik Lacrosse, told The News Journal that a solution could be on the horizon. After a recent meeting with NOCSAE officials, his company has now created a larger helmet using “an alternative manufacturing process. “
While LaRose said he couldn’t guarantee the larger helmets would fit all players with bigger heads, he was hopeful that this would be a solution for Billy Boyd.
“We started three weeks ago and a week after the Boston Globe article appeared, Alex Chu at Wheaton College had a helmet,” he said. “We’ve put the Boyds in contact with the local rep in Delaware.”
Billy Boyd says he will continue to fight to get into the game, for himself and others like him.
“I don’t want to throw in the towel, even if I don’t get to play,” he said. “If there was a similar situation, I would want the kid to be able to play where I couldn’t.”