Every young athlete dreams of becoming a professional athlete. They imagine what it's like to play under the bright lights in front of sold-out crowds. Desert Ridge High School student-athletes get to experience one of the parts of being a professional with the help of Under Armour.
The sports apparel company signed a five-year deal with the Mesa high school back in 2017 to help support the athletic department.
Desert Ridge receives an undisclosed amount of money from Under Armour every year that can be used on facilities, equipment, clothing, etc. The money is spread around to all the sports the school offers.
Although Desert Ridge receives all this money from Under Armour, uniforms are a separate charge for everyone.
Since the school does buy jerseys in bulk, Under Armour provides discounts to their partners. Going into the 2021 season, the Desert Ridge football team bought new uniforms.
One uniform set cost $180 per player and totaled upwards of $15,000 for the entire team. The set includes two jerseys and pants for the players. Cleats are not supplied even though a majority of the players wear Under Armour cleats.
The school knew that a majority of the players and their families would not afford the costs of a new uniform. In that case, a fundraiser was set up to help those who could not cover the costs.
Desert Ridge athletic director Jim Lavin hopes that fundraisers won't be necessary after next year. The school is working on another deal with the district to receive more funding for jerseys.
"Starting next year, Gilbert Public Schools is giving us a certain amount of money specifically for uniforms so going forward we won't have to fundraise," said Lavin.
Players, coaches, and Lavin are all happy with the quality they are getting out of the uniforms.
"The jerseys are very nice. You can tell the difference between some of the other top brands. These uniforms get a tighter fit and slicker feel which changes the way the game is played," said head football coach Roy Lopez. "You want everyone to look good and feel good. It's all about the swag or as the kids say, ‘the drip.’"
Lopez notes that uniforms had evolved since when he first started coaching. Nowadays, practice jerseys are similar to game jerseys. A couple of years ago, jerseys worn in practice were loose fit and comfortable. However, since game uniforms are getting tighter, the fit has to be the same.
Players were just as excited as coaches to receive the new threads. Senior KJ Miniefield was ecstatic to see the replacements of the jerseys he's been wearing for the past three years.
"The whole team went crazy when we first saw the all-black uniforms. Under Armour did a great job with these and I'm surprised by how quick they came," said Miniefield.
Desert Ridge is heading into its final year of the deal with Under Armour. The school and Lavin will have to go through renegotiations to set up a new contract. Lavin is optimistic that the two sides will come to another agreement and continue their relationship.
"I think it's been a good relationship. It's been good for both Desert Ridge and Under Armour and I hope we can continue," said Lavin.
Lucas Gordon is a sports journalism student at Arizona State University covering Desert Ridge Athletics.