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Arena AdvantageRussell Athletic Scoring Big with AFL
© October 2007
In the fast-paced world of the Arena Football League, where teams are pressured to score on virtually every possession, players seek to gain an advantage every time they touch the ball. That includes having the best jerseys available – ones that can’t be grabbed by would-be tacklers trying to prevent a touchdown.
Dallas Desperados quarterback Clint Dolezel, the AFL’s all-time leader with 865 career touchdown passes, knows more about getting the ball into the end zone than perhaps any player in league history. In leading the Desperados to a 15-1 record this year, Dolezel threw for 107 TD’s against only 9 INT’s. Stats like that indicate that things went very right for the team, including avoiding ‘jersey tackles.’ According to Dolezel, “I don’t think there was one time that one of our players was tackled by a defender trying to grab his jersey.”
The Desperados’ experience was not unique. Players were escaping tackles all around the Arena Football League this year, outfitted with state-of-the-art Russell Athletic uniforms in the first year of their agreement as Official Uniform Supplier of the AFL. By far, the most popular uniform choice was the XC jersey. In fact, according to Sarah Gholston, Russell’s Director of Team Sport Merchandising, the XC release has been the most successful release in Russell Football history.
XC is short for Xtreme Compression – an ultra snug-fitting material that is nearly impossible to grab. “The Russell design team set out to create a superior garment by combining several performance features,” said Gholston. “The compression and cut of the jersey makes it very difficult to grab.”
Players appreciate the XC’s performance characteristics, but they also give it high marks for comfort. According to Gholston, “We were able to combine superior compression, moisture management and thermoregulation characteristics in one garment.” To help keep players cool and dry, Russell incorporated ventilator technology to accelerate body cooling and Dri-Power technology to wick moisture away from the body. And, in what must certainly be a welcome innovation to Arena fans, who sometimes get so close to players that they can touch them, Russell built in anti-microbial technology into the XC to help eliminate odor.
By any measure, Russell’s affiliation with the AFL has been a hit. “Russell is a great asset to our league as a whole and definitely our team,” said Desperados Head Coach Will McClay. Like all coaches, McClay appreciates when team suppliers make his job easier by providing top-notch customer service. “I have been involved with the AFL since 1989 and this is the best service and product our league has had,” offered Coach McClay. “The professional design and the way that the company was there when we needed them is what customer service is all about. We couldn't be more pleased and look forward to working with Russell for years to come.”
In addition to jerseys, Russell produces pants, gloves, practice and compression wear, coaches shirts and sideline hats for AFL teams. Logoed Russell gear is available to fans at the official AFL online store plus team stores and websites.
“We are thrilled about our partnership with the Arena Football League,” said Russell President Doug Kelly. “Our alliance with such a well-respected organization like the AFL affords Russell Athletic the opportunity to showcase our state-of-the-art XC no grab football jerseys on some of professional football’s finest athletes as well as interact with their ever-growing fan base across the country.”
From Pros to Preps
Russell’s uniforms and customer service clearly meet the demanding needs of AFL players and coaches. But does that commitment to great products and top-flight service extend to the high school marketplace? The answer, according to Foothill (CA) High School Head Coach Bryon Hamilton, is a resounding “Yes.”
The Foothill Cougars, who are coming off an 11-1 season in 2007 and this year are ranked 3rd in California’s Division 2, made the switch to Russell during the off season. Coach Hamilton is very pleased with the results. “I couldn’t be happier with the products,” said Hamilton. “Our kids look sharp and they feel good, too.” It’s not just on game days that the Cougar players get to experience Russell quality. According to Hamilton, “All of our kids are wearing the NXT Compression shirts for our weight lifting and for our off-field training.”
It is, however, the commitment to outstanding customer service that impresses Coach Hamilton the most. “Russell has been tremendous in customer service,” said Hamilton. “The thing about Russell that I like is if I need anything, I call them and I get it in a couple of days. That service makes my job much easier.”
Considering that Russell currently outfits approximately 30% of all high school football players in the country, maintaining that high level of service is a big job, but one Russell’s Sarah Gholston takes in stride. “We continue to put a large focus on the high school market by bringing performance-enhancing products to the field of play and focusing on the needs of our customers.”
Quality products and customer service – critically important to coaches at all levels of the game. Russell understands that, and makes sure that regardless of your level of play, your needs will be met.
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