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Good Housekeeping Article

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May 2000
By Julia Wang

Going to Bat for Girls Pamela Ryan makes the world safe for budding athletes-and their ponytails In 1990, when her twin daughters were 8 years old Pamela Ryan volunteered to coach their softball team. She still remembers the summer practice sessions in Saint Paul – 18 little girls in cleats, perched on a bench ready to play ball. The only problem: safety. When the girls went up to bat, Ryan says, “they’d balance their helmets on top of their heads, because they didn’t want to snag their ponytails.”

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Fearful of wild pitches and cracked skulls, Ryan now 43, threw herself into a search for a helmet that would accommodate a ponytail. She found none: “Seven million girls between the ages of seven and seventeen played softball, and their was no helmet for the ponytail among them.” Setting up shop in the family’s house, Ryan (whose husband Michael, is a lawyer) took matters into her own hands. Using an electric saw borrowed from a neighbor, she deconstructed a few batting helmets. After years of tweaking-and plenty of help from older daughter Brigid, 21 and twins Courtney and Megan, now 17 – she produced the winning design. With a channel built into the liner, her prototype helmet fit snugly over a ponytail. The girls loved it, but others didn’t get it. “A lot of people laughed,” says Ryan, who quit her job as a lobbyist to market her invention. “Especially bald men with no hair issues.” Finally, in 1998, she signed a 17 year contract with Shutt Sports, a manufacturer that specializes in women’s sports equipment. On the market for only a year, the Shutt Pony Tail Helmet is already a success. Retailing for $16 to $30, it sold out as soon as it hit the shelves and is now back in stock at more than 500 sporting-goods stores across the country. “Public recognition is nice,” says Ryan, now head of sports consulting firm. “But what matters is that girls actually wear my helmet when they’re up to bat!”