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ASAA 'just did it' and moves to Nike footballs for playoff games

Nike's new footballs for Alberta Schools Athletics Association come with bulk-buy price tags

LAKELAND - High school and club football teams across Alberta will soon be ‘just doing it’ during playoff games with a new Nike Championship football, thanks to a recently announced partnership with sports distributors and the Alberta Schools Athletics Association.  

The new football – which comes with a price tag of $114.98 when more than six are ordered – is being made available to local teams and ASAA members. School teams and leagues will pick up the cost of any new footballs they purchase.   

On Tuesday, April 2, a three-year agreement between the Alberta Schools Athletic Association (ASAA) and T. Litzen Sports/Skyline Athletics was announced that makes the Nike Championship the official game ball of ASAA football.  

Although footballs can be purchased at local sporting goods stores like Lac La Biche Sporting Goods for as little as $30, with higher quality offerings available for twice that amount, ASAA officials say the Nike Championship balls are being offered at a discounted rate to local teams.  

Brad Van Raalte, the assistant executive director of the ASAA, said the Nike Championship is 20-30 per cent cheaper than its major competitors. Prior to this week's ball-change announcement, he added, the Wilson F1005 was the official ball of the ASAA.  That ball had a retail cost north of $120.   

When asked what attributes the Nike Championship has that makes it better than other options, Van Raalte said that the Nike is slightly smaller, with a more “technical” shape, a grippy texture, suede laces and a shell made of 45 per cent cow leather and 45 per cent polyester.  

In the air

Not all coaches are convinced that their teams will be getting a good bang for their buck.   

Larry Godziak of the Bonnyville Voyageurs football team said currently, the youth team is using the previously approved Wilson ball. He said the new deal at $114.98 is only available when six or more balls are bought. By comparison, he said, the Wilson might be a little more expensive, but there is no minimum order restriction.  

“We were told that any new ‘approved’ ball would come at a convenient price,” he told Lakeland This Week, “As far as I know, there are almost zero differences between the new ball from Nike and the old one from Wilson.” 

The new footballs must only be used in playoff games, he explained, so buying more than one isn’t necessary. 

For the remainder of this year, at least, the Voyageurs will continue to use the Wilson ball while on the gridiron. According the Godziak, the team has not changed to the new ball, as the official announcement has only just been made. He added that officials have already made equipment purchases for the year and will not be making any additional ones.    

“We are done our equipment order for the year, so we won’t be ordering any of the ’new’ game balls until next year,” he explained.    

According to the ASAA, teams can finish the 2024 season with the previous football, but the new Nike balls must be used in playoff games starting next year.

In Cold Lake, Kelly Johnson, the head coach of the Senior Royals high school football team, said although he doesn’t think the new ball will have many new attributes to offer players, it does have a different construction, including that the laces are more pronounced over the Wilson ball.  

Until now, Johnson explained, the Royals used the Wilson 1005 football. Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, the Wilson leather ball became very hard to buy.   

“The stock supplies were not consistent,” Johnson said. “I think that is one of the reasons why the balls are being changed.”  

In preparation for the changeover, the Cold Lake Royals ordered six of the new balls, which the team has already received and will be practicing with. Johnson admits that the price is higher than the Wilson, adding that this cost is covered by player fees.  

“We usually buy five new game balls a year, and some non-leather balls for kicking practice and 'wet' practice days,” he said.    

While the Wilson F1005 had for a long time served as the official ball of the ASAA, according to Van Raalte, the company discontinued this model a few years ago. Since then, teams and leagues have either continued to use their old stock of the F1005, or have adopted the Wilson F2000, Wilson GST, or the Nike Vapor One.    

Therefore, availability was key in deciding to switch to the Nike Championship.  

“The Nike supply chain functions well and schools can get balls quickly,” he stated, adding that the same cannot be said of the major competitor. “Nike is also the official football of Football Alberta, so many players and coaches in Alberta are already familiar with the ball.”   

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