The Transformation of Cardinal High School

We’re just Cardinal.

That’s what students used to say about Cardinal High School.

Six years ago, school spirit was low, students were opting out of the district, school leadership was experiencing conflict, Cardinal was listed as a persistent low-achieving school, state budget cuts were affecting Cardinal, and the community was discouraged.

Parents wanted what was best for their children. So many enrolled them in other schools. And with the departure of each student, the district took in less and less money.

The buildings were dull and depressing places. Teacher morale was low. Technology was antiquated. And in an area where 65 percent of the students live under the poverty level, things seemed rather bleak.

But in 2010, the School Board stepped up and made some major changes. They hired a new superintendent with a strong vision for the future. They passed a 5.3 million bond to make school improvements. And they began to turn things around at Cardinal Community School District.

Working together, the school board and superintendent started to change the school culture. They spoke with community members, got their buy in, and helped shift their perception of Cardinal. They met with businesses and formed partnerships. They planted the seed of what was possible.

In the end, everyone focused on the students, and in so doing; Cardinal began to accomplish great things. Once the positive momentum began, it just kept right on rolling.

Students began open enrolling into the Cardinal district — 160 at last count — and it became clear that Cardinal was a great place to be.

Among many other positive changes, leaders instituted a strict no bullying policy, gave every student a laptop, installed Wi-Fi on school buses, started a robotics club, encouraged teachers to come in on Saturdays to provide extra help, brought in a therapy dog, and installed new technology to help both students and teachers.

However, what is most noticeable are the physical changes. Administrators believed that changing the environment was one of the quickest ways to change student achievement and morale.

Cardinal went through an extreme physical makeover. Now when former students and alumni return for visits, they don’t recognize their former school. Visitors often say it feels like a Fortune 500 company or a university.

In a partnership with SportsGraphics, leaders at Cardinal transformed the school and branded it with positive messages. Once grey hallways are now adorned with bright school graphics. Plain walls feature inspirational sayings. And the former dull and drab gym is decked out with colorful wall graphics, bleacher pads, and protective wall pads for the athletes.

SportsGraphics was pleased to work with administrators to offer custom designs and products. We were also happy to donate many of our materials to help change the look and feel of Cardinal Community School District.

Today, the future looks bright for this once under-performing school district. Their Cardinal Promise 2020 is a strategic plan for improvement. As you’ll learn in the We Are Cardinal video, Cardinal hopes to become one of the best districts in the entire United States.

Gone are the days of we’re just Cardinal. Today, the students chant — loud and proud — we ARE Cardinal.

Thank You

we are cardinalThanks again for your support in the We Are Cardinal project.  Check your email for updates!

Backstop Padding: Everything You Need to Know for Your Field

backstop padding for your field


Our business partner Field Wall Pads just came out with an amazing informational guide to everything you need to know on buying backstop padding for your football stadiums, softball and baseball fields. Renovating your backstop pads on your field or stadium is a large investment and you want to make sure you pay for something that is going to look great, last long, and most importantly protect your athletes. So if you are in the buying process or thinking about changing out those old ragged looking backstop pads on your current field, hop on over to Field Wall Pads Ultimate Guide to Backstop Padding so you can make the best purchasing decision!

Gym Wall Pads & Bleacher Enclosures Protect People

gym wall pads safety


37 years ago, Paul Simon released a song called “Slip Slidin’ Away.” It was a great recording, but it’s an awful sensation. Water, mud, snow, dust, wax, loose mats, and trash are just a few of the items that make gyms unsafe and cause slips and sliding.

Don’t put your students and visitors at risk. Make sure your gym is a clean, well-lit, and safe place.

Indoor wall padding, gym wall pads, and bleacher padding are two ways you can provide protection in your gym. SportsGraphics offers a wide selection of gymnasium wall padding products.

At six feet tall and 12 feet wide, Ulta-Mats gym wall pads cover the entire lane area with 2 ½ inch high impact foam. In addition to providing a protective surface, Ulta-Mats also serve as a visual focal point. They can be customized with your school colors and mascot and they will provide the exact coverage you need.

But don’t stop with the lanes. You can also cover gym columns, corners, walls, scorer’s tables, and stages with our durable and digitally printed wall padding. If you can think of a hard, sharp surface, SportsGraphics can provide a protective solution.

Bleacher enclosures are another great way to provide both beauty and safety to any gym area. You may remember running under and around the bleachers when you were little, but it’s really not a safe thing to do. Our heavy-duty vinyl enclosures—printed with your school colors, sponsors or mascots—prevent just this type of mischief!

Now that you’ve covered up any potential dangerous spots, it’s time to consider other solutions to keep your gym safe and sparkling.

Tips for Making Your Gym a Safer Place

• Playing offense is often the best defense. The danger of falling on a waxy, slick gym floor is very real. Place heavy-duty doormats at every exit and entrance to your gym. You may also wish to place rubber-backed runners inside the gym as a backup measure. If people still track in mud and snow, make sure your school maintenance workers, teachers, or volunteers are on hand to wipe the messes away. Better yet; teach your students to clean up after themselves.

• Covering your gym floor when it’s not being used for sporting events just makes good sense. A thick gym tarp will protect the floor during pep rallies, choir concerts, and everyday foot traffic.

• Mopping with a dry mop several times a day is a tried and true remedy to clean up dirt and grime.


If you are looking for wrestling mats for your gym check out our products page!

• Replacing A/C filters on a regular schedule will reduce dirt, mold, and dust. Filters should be replaced every several months.

Finally, recognize that you don’t have to break the bank to maintain a safe gym. A few enhancements and diligent cleaning will make your gymnasium a safe and welcoming place.

Wall Padding: Five Questions You Need to Ask Before Buying

When it comes to wall padding and mats, you can have both form and function. SportsGraphics creates products that offer both superior protection and beauty.


Our large wall mats and wall padding are designed for safety and durability. And because they can be customized with any color or logo, you can also create a beautiful indoor space.  Even our wrestling mats padding for individual use are made of the same quality!


Wall Padding Top 5 Questions To Ask Before You Buy


But before you invest in new wall mat padding and mats, make sure you know a few basics. Avoid costly mistakes and make wise decisions. Make sure you can answer yes to the following five questions about wall pads and wall mats:


  1. Will they fit? The engineers and designers at SportsGraphics customize every order. We’ll make sure your padding system exactly matches your specifications. We can design custom configurations and fastening solutions. SportsGraphics wants to make sure your padding is ready for easy installation at your site or stadium. We cover all our bases and all your spaces.
  2. Are they safe? What’s the point of installing flimsy wall pads and mats? Not only are they dangerous, but they won’t last. SportsGraphics tests all our products for maximum protection. Our pads are made with ½” thick OSB, 3″ high impact foam. In fact, we’ve conducted extensive research to measure the shock attenuation performance of playing surfaces. Our tests showed that our 3” foam wall pads are well under the “Impact Threshold”, which provide your players with superior safety. Buy only the highest quality wall mats and wall padding from SportsGraphics.
  3. Is the company or manufacturer reputable? Will they be around to help you in six months or a year? Or are they a fly-by-night operation? SportsGraphics has been in business since 1987. We stand by all our products. Our goal is to manufacture only the highest quality mats and protective pads and surfaces. And we’re always available to answer your questions.
  4. Can you get the style and look you want? Don’t settle for cheap imitations. At SportsGraphics, our motto is “If you can imagine it, we can make it.” In fact, we were the first company to print directly on pads. We offer six-color, plus white, printing. Our designers listen to your needs and requests and then create a customized look that’s sure to please you. At SportsGraphics, we can effortlessly match your school or team colors and we can reproduce your mascots and logos. All our design work and manufacturing is done under the same roof. You’ll love our free design mock-ups and revisions. We offer revisions until you’re completely satisfied with the end product.
  5. Will they last? All our padding is constructed from heavy-duty vinyl with stainless steel staples. Easy to install, it’s a product that’s designed to last. All our rail and post padding is UV, water, and mildew resistant. Our customers—including the St. Louis Rams, Kansas City Chiefs, Washington Redskins, Baltimore Orioles and more—count on us to manufacture durable and long-lasting wall padding.


Contact us and  let SportsGraphics create a lasting, safe, and beautiful padding solution for your team or building.


Wall Padding That Prevents Concussions Are Necessary for Schools

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that alters the way your brain functions, according to the Mayo Clinic. Unfortunately, for athletes who play contact sports, concussions are far too common.


In fact, the Journal of Pediatrics reported that each year there are between 1.6 and 3.8 million sports-related concussions in the United States. Among that staggering number, approximately 300,000 sports-related concussions involve U.S. high school athletes every year. For athletes from 15 to 24 years of age, sports-related injuries rank second only to motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of concussions, per research in The American Journal of Sports Medicine.


Preventing Concussions: Is Your Wall Padding Up to the Job?


While most people think of full-contact sports—football and hockey, for example—as the most dangerous, athletes can sustain concussions across a wide variety of sports and activities.


The numbers are startling. In response, reducing or preventing concussions has become a national health priority. Schools and teams have realized they have a duty to provide safe facilities for their athletes from adding wall padding for gyms, stage pads, and even bleachers.

 We Build Wall Padding Mats To Prevent Injury

At SportsGraphics, we’re pleased to be part of the solution. The safety and health of athletes has always been our highest priority and mission. For over 25  years now, we have provided the highest quality indoor and outdoor wall pads, Ulta-mats, and column and corner pads.


SportsGraphics custom designs, constructs, and manufactures protective padding products to fit any space you request.


We’re so serious about safety that we’ve conducted our own independent research to see how our 3” foam wall pads stack up against the competition. SportsGraphics looked specifically at the shock absorption performance as it pertains to impact.


Our experts conducted G-max testing—or impact testing—to measure the shock attenuation performance of a playing surface. We found that our 3” foam wall pads provide superior protection against concussions.


wall padding prevents concussions


The caring professionals at SportsGraphics understand the risks involved with sports and the importance of athlete safety. We know you’ll appreciate our wide variety of wall pads that help promote safety throughout your school or facility.


Call a SportsGraphics representative today to discuss the best products for your organization. We’ll help ensure you provide the protection your athletes deserve.



Next time you see Pro Wrestler John Cena throw an opponent into the padded guardrails in the WWE wrestling ring, don’t worry. Rest assured the opponent is being tossed against the highest quality wall padding available on the market made by yours truly. 

SportsGraphics introduced its barricade padding at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view event in Minneapolis, Minnesota on February 23, 2014.

Our solid black padding surrounds the entire wrestling ring and is now used at all WWE live events. The sturdy stuff provides a new level of safety, with its custom-sized vinyl and squared edges.

WWE superstars are used to a life of hard knocks. They’re routinely thrown onto steel steps and corner posts. They’re accustomed to having chairs slammed onto their heads and backs on a nightly basis. So being tossed into the new SportsGraphics’ barricade padding should be like a walk in the park.

Providing Wall Padding to the WWE

These sleek new pads are constructed with ¾” plywood backing and 2” open cell foam over the top. The foam and plywood is then covered by heavy-duty 18 oz. vinyl. SportsGraphics’ pads are professionally installed with Velcro attachments, replacing the previous sharp-edged (ouch!) bracket system.

SportsGraphics is also pleased to announce the introduction of our roll out mats for WWE WrestleMania 30. The event happened on Sunday, April 6 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.

You’ll notice the 1,500 square feet of SportsGraphics’ lightweight and impact tested wrestling mats covering the concrete floor between the wrestling ring and the padded barricades. Just like the padded barricades, our roll out mats will be used at all future WWE live events.

Those big mean wrestlers make everything look rough and tumble. SportsGraphics knows our products can take a beating and still provide a spot for much softer landings.

If you are a school looking for competition mats you are in the right place, just hop on over to our wrestling page, otherwise, if you are looking for personal wrestling mats check out our Roll Out Mat Wrestling Mats.

Safety Checklist For Fields and Gymnasiums

When the new sports seasons start it is so exciting that you may forget to take the time to make sure that your gymnasiums and fields are safe. Do a quick gym and field check to make sure that you have covered all the safety pitfalls that can go easily unnoticed. Your athletes and fans will thank you and your sports season can be all about winning and having fun- like it should be.

As President of SportsGraphics Incorporated, a Safety and Image Resource for Schools across America- and a coach myself, I have put together a quick check-off list that you can easily print to check the safety of your own facilities.

  1. Familiarize yourself with the training policies of your school district and make sure to plan your practices with rest and water breaks.
  2. Check to see that you understand your legal duties as a coach. These duties include offering instruction and offering correct and safe equipment and facilities. To offer proper conditioning, and offer proper emergency care.
  3. Check the area in which you will be practicing. Walk around and assess the entire area getting rid of any tripping hazards, holes in fields.
  4. Check the wall pads. Make sure they don’t need repair. Are the backboards and football posts padded properly?
  5. Check to see that bleachers have enclosures that prevent children from playing underneath.
  6. Check to see that the volleyball poles are secure. Make sure that you are observing manufacturer’s guidelines and that you are not making anything fit by jimmy rigging or making homemade adjustments.
  7. Check each individual player’s equipment for proper fit. Make sure that you have educated yourself on the latest enhancedsafety equipment and educate your staff with latest trends available on decreasing injuries.
  8. Check that your players are physically fit enough to participate. Make sure you are participating in warm-up, stretching, and a cool down for your players even during pre-season practice programs.
  9. Check that athletes are matched with close equivalent weight, size and skill in terms of competition matching practices.
  10. Check to see that the players are always under the supervision of a qualified coach.
  11. Check to review emergency plans in case of injury and review it with everyone who will be involved.
  12. Check the record keeping for physical exams, attendance, eligibility forms, emergency cards, informed consents; and make sure there is a good clear and consistent form of record keeping done by all including substitute coaches.
  13. Check that you have informed the players about their own understanding of their responsibility in injury prevention.

These are a few critical procedures for you or your coaches to practice that will prevent the most common accidents that occur in high schools and middle schools across the country. Please don’t underestimate the importance of explaining the responsibility that the athletes have in making safety a priority for themselves.

Written from the perspective of a father of five, a football coach and the as a Safety and Image Specialist for the company SportsGraphics.

Patrick Conlon
SportsGraphics, Inc.

Field Wall Pads Keep Gophers Protected At TCF Bank Stadium

Field Wall PaddingSo many movies have been made about the excitement of going from rags to riches. Its only exciting really, if you’ve been forced to wait in rags until it seems almost natural to be in them. Sometimes you’ve been in rags so long you might even begin defending the ugly state your in. The ugly state I’m talking about is the downtown Metrodome and the Gophers can finally stop grinning and bearing it.

This will be a totally new era for the Minnesota Gophers and their fans; and boy do they deserve it. After two decades of having the off- campus hideous Metrodome which seemed so awkward on so many levels (navigating and parking topping the list) they now are blessed with a classically beautiful, borderline opulent stadium that has been designed in such a way that you could almost feel a tinge of resent toward these Gophers. In case you do, rest assured, it passes.

And maybe what helps it pass is the realization of how much the Gophers deserved this stadium and how much this stadium is so much more than a stadium. The sheer forethought alone that went into every detail of construction makes this infrastructure somehow more special like it was built with an instant heritage, a story. Stadium designer Jeff Spear and Coach Brewster really thought about the purpose of this stadium beyond the More Factor- more seating, more fans, more tickets, more money; more, more more. This stadium was built for a purpose; the team for starters, the team most importantly. What seemed to be in mind, was the goal of unifying, and tearing down at the same time. Building cohesion while not allowing the natural separation that can naturally take place when teams have money to build individual spaces for players. This stadium was designed to never be a fertile ground for cliques; not even a chance to take root. The locker rooms were laid out to keep an open feel instead of compartmentalizing positions and offense and defense. And then there are architectural details that only the team will enjoy, like the illuminated giant M on the ceiling of the locker room that was put there to bring excitement to the players.

The gift this stadium gives to its fans goes beyond more room. There is of course the amazing view of the Minneapolis skyline, and the ability to park and get in the stadium in less than twenty minutes. And if you’re a prospective recruit; just travel down your own secret entrance where there you’ll end up in a huge lounge with cozy couches. The concourses are wide making it easy for fans to navigate through to their seats. Once seated you’ll enjoy the game from the main HD video board by Daktronics, which says this video board is the third largest in college football. Daktronics ProAd® LED ribbon displays are also installed along the fascia of both sidelines, revealing game information and up to the second player statistics, and all sorts of video animation to keep the crowd enthusiastic, though I doubt the crowd will need much help.

So much thought was put into this stadium, even the skeletal construction. 8, 800 tons of steel- and 97% of it was recycled. And the first brick put down on the stadium was laid by Hilding Mortenson who was a brick layer and worked on the Memorial Stadium in 1924. He is now 100 years old.We were very excited to be a part of the making of the TCF Bank Stadium. As our field padding was being installed, I felt the excitement of sharing in the moment of yet another dream held by thousands of people; become a reality. I was amazed at the many hats that Scott Amundson ofMortenson Construction wore while staying calm cool and collected the entire time. I’d like to thank Scott for giving my sons and I tickets to the opening scrimmage. The highlight of the experience though was to see the sheer excitement on the alumni’s faces as they saw the stadium for the first time. I felt like I was in a MasterCard Commercial because that was priceless.

Windscreens – The Many Functions

Traditionally, windscreens have been used across fences to provide privacy for the players on the field. The windscreen helps players stay focused on the game without distractions of traffic and activity off the field.

Windscreen 1Windscreens also limit outside noise while keeping the resonance of the game at a contagious inclusion of involvement.Another benefit of windscreens is shade. With more and more scientific evidence of the damaging effects of sun on unprotected skin; windscreens can provide spectators protection with varying levels (depending on the windscreen) that can block up to 100% of sun’s exposure.Of course windscreen also lives up to its name by blocking out wind, dust and debris from distracting players and spectators.

Andy Kachure, a safety and image consultant for SportsGraphics, is seeing new ways that windscreens are being used. “The first order usually results with the athletic director or the principle telling me that the digitally printed windscreen far exceeded their expectations. Next they are asking for it on the backsides of press boxes and below railing in the gymnasiums,” says Kachure.

Windscreen RailingAccording to Kachure, schools are wanting to use printed windscreen to wrap the fences that run around the parking lot, giving the spectators an enclosed, safe feeling for privacy and security. “It is just a very affordable way to dress up the school’s fields and facilities with amazing digital imagery that really identifies the school’s spirit, “ says Kachure.

Windscreens are easy to apply with built in grommets and hemmed edges. The only thing the school needs to do is zip tie them to the fence or poles, depending on where they are going to be displayed.