One day, everyone gets a message that it’s time to stop playing football. Sometimes that message comes early, like when you’re a head shorter and 50 pounds lighter than everyone around you. Sometimes it comes later, after you’ve won a couple Super Bowls. And sometimes, it comes when you’ve just lost your first two football games of the season by a combined score of 102-0.
Healdsburg High’s football woes
The Washington Post brings us the story of Healdsburg High in California’s wine country, a school with an enrollment of just 500 students. Only 18 players joined the school’s varsity football team, meaning that, at a minimum, several players would be on both offense and defense. They lost their opener, 41-0, and then lost their second game, 61-0. And that’s when troubles really began.
After the second loss, five players quit. A sixth jumped ship on Monday. Coaches took an anonymous vote, and the remaining players who voted decided to end the season by a vote of 7-4.
“For one reason or another, we had low numbers to start, and when you only have 18 and a couple of the boys start to do other things, you start to get concerned,” Principal Bill Halliday told the Post. “I didn’t see the writing on the wall. I’m an educator. I’ve been doing this a long time. We have a tendency to be optimistic.”
Is this a trend?
Far more troubling to the NFL’s future than, say, protests during the national anthem is the fact that children just aren’t playing football as much as they used to. Whether because of parents’ concerns about injuries, demographic changes, or single-sport specialization, interest in playing football has dropped by a noticeable margin.
The National Federation of State High School Associations reports that participation in youth football is down 6.6 percent over the last decade, with 20,000 fewer players taking the field in 2017 than in the prior year.
Worth noting, though: as Halliday points out, the junior varsity team has 30 players. Football isn’t dead at Healdsburg, just on temporary hiatus. Will that hold for the rest of the country, too?
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.
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