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Declining Participation Forces Some High Schools to Drop Varsity Football

Football Participation
DANIEL LEBERFELD

According to National Federation of State High School Associations, participation in high school football is declining.

In 2015, 1,112,251 boys participated in high school football, but that number dropped to 1,086,748 in 2016, and then to 1,035,942 last year.

According to the Indianapolis Star, two Indiana high schools have dropped varsity football, with the latest being Hammond Bishop Noll.

“At the conclusion of the 2017-18 school year, we are optimistic about our program’s numbers for this fall,” Bishop Noll principal Lorenza Jara Pastrick said in a statement. “This summer, we have been monitoring those numbers daily throughout conditioning to assure ourselves we would have experienced players to participate safely in a varsity season.

“Unfortunately, due to low numbers of upperclassmen on the first official day of practice (Monday), we feel we cannot fully commit to competing at the varsity level right now. It is our hope and sincere goal to take this season and next season to rebuild our program from the bottom up in hopes to reignite our football program and bring it back to its past competitive level. We feel it would not be prudent or responsible to subject our young and inexperienced players to the rigors of varsity football at this time.”

According to the Indianapolis Star, Bishop Hammond will field a junior varsity team the next couple of years to help build up the numbers to perhaps relaunch a varsity team in a few years.

The other Indiana high school to cancel their 2018 season is Wood Memorial in Oakland City, which only had 13 players sign up.

Another Indiana high school having issues fielding a team is Park Tudor in Indianapolis. Park Tudor has a shortage of players, and actually had to cancel a game last year due to being undermanned.

“Unfortunately, we had three kids move out of state and a couple more transfer or we would be right about our average, which has been about 20 to 25 kids the last seven years,” Park Tudor coach Orlando Lowry told the Indy Star. “The numbers are low, but I like the quality of the players we have and believe the future is bright.

“The numbers are always tight. But this summer we had between 11 and 15 eighth-graders at middle school conditioning, were normally it is between five and eight. What happened last year (the cancelled game against Speedway) was so sudden the way the positions came out. We would have had to play a quarterback and running back who had never played those positions. It would have been dangerous. But I don’t think we’re in that situation this year.”

Another Midwestern state, Illinois, once a football stronghold, has seen declining high school participation in recent years.

According to the Illinois High School Association, 51,373 participated in football in 2007, and that number was down to 42,682 in 2016.

Clearly a fear of concussions and CTE have contributed to declining high school football participation. St. Charles (IL) North Rob Pomazak wonders about the future of high school football.

“Contact sports should evolve to a safer practice,” Pomazak told the Chicago Tribune. “I don’t think it’s ever going to stop. There will always be elite-level athletes. I just don’t know where the game will go at the high school level.”

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