Some kids say football not worth the effort

High school football numbers are down.
Aug 17, 2014


A disturbing refrain is being echoed by coaches throughout high-school football two-a-days of late: Our numbers are down.

Always fearful of injuries decimating team depth, coaches can never have enough players on the roster. But their concerns this summer have more merit. Studies in Ohio and nationwide confirm that participation numbers — trickling all the way to the youth level — are on a steady decline.

Reasons for this trend are many: The time commitment and physical rigors are increasingly demanding. Students have more sports and academic activities to keep them busy. More athletes specialize in one sport with hopes of earning a scholarship. Participation fees can be an obstacle. Growing concerns about injuries, most notably concussions, deter some.

Others blame a general softening of our culture for boys opting not to play.

Since his first season at Mifflin in 2010, coach Gregg Miller said his roster has dwindled from 80 to just below 40.
“The kids are telling me they don't want to spend their summer in the heat practicing,” said Miller, who plans to retire after this, his 23rd season. “They’d rather sit in the air conditioning and watch TV and play video games. They say they're willing to come out when the season starts, but you and I know that isn't going to fly.

“It’s just a different society we're in now.”

Westerville South 24th-year coach Rocky Pentello said the turnout in his Division I program has dropped from 90 roughly 10 years ago to below 50. Westerville Central's opening in 2003 was just one factor.

“It’s a societal and generational thing,” he said. “The kids weere getting are just different now. Kids are isolated; they’re not outside playing in the parks and fields like we did. I hate to say it, but a lot of them would rather sit home and play NCAA or Madden (video games). Football takes a lot of work and a lot of kids today just aren’t willing to make that commitment.”

Ready coach Brian Cross echoed the sentiments of his colleagues.
“High-school football is a year-round sport, and not a lot of people in this day and age are willing to make that kind of commitment in preparation,” he said.

Statistics provided by the National Federation of State High School Associations and the Ohio High School Athletic Association reinforce the coaches’ claims.

Although participation in high-school sports nationwide increased for the 24th consecutive year, football held steady in the 1.1 million range, about 40,000 players fewer than five years ago.

Between 2008 and 2013, the number of players in Ohio dropped from 55,392 to 45,573.

Perhaps even more telling: 22 fewer schools fielded teams in 2013 than in 2010. OHSAA spokesman Tim Stried said, however, that he expects a slight uptick this fall with the addition of eight new teams, including Worthington Christian.

“A slow decline in numbers recently is due to the combination of a few reasons, including the elimination of some freshman teams due to budget cuts, the trend of sport specialization by kids, and also higher pay-to-participate fees that cause some kids to drop the sports in which they are not a varsity contributor,” Stried said. “Football numbers remain very strong in Ohio.”

In Michigan, football participation has dropped 10.5 percent since 2007. The state's 41,507 participants last year was the lowest number since 1995.
USA Football reported that youth and high-school tackle football participation has dropped from 3.2 million to 2.6 million since 2007, an 8 percent dip.

And Pop Warner, the nation’s largest youth football program, saw its numbers drop 9.5 percent from 2010 to 2012 — its largest dip ever.

Olentangy Liberty coach Steve Hale, president of the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association, said the numbers problem affects certain pockets. His Division I program has 128 players, 84 in grades 10-12.

“We’ve had some up-and-down swings at Liberty,” he said. “Generally speaking, I think specialization is hurting everybody. You can play so many sports year-round and use private trainers and the whole bit. I’m not sure it's a matter of the kids not doing anything. My inclination is to think they're focusing more on other things. They're spread so thin to begin with.”

A handful of City League teams are said to be practicing with fewer than 30 players.

“We’ve got 38, but only about 28 to 30 that show up consistently,” South coach Keith Dimmy said. “It changes the way we run practices, that’s for sure. We can’t have as many contact drills as we’d like for fear of guys getting injured. I want to make sure we keep the people we have healthy for the first week of the season. That’s my top priority right now.”

DeSales, a Division III team, has about 60 players, which coach Ryan Wiggins calls “manageable,” but he noticed that many Columbus diocese youth teams are joining forces because of lower numbers.

One year removed from a 10-1 playoff season, Centerburg has just 27 players, 10 of whom are freshmen. The junior-varsity team was scrapped.

Coach Jim Stoyle said a number of factors resulted in the significant decrease in players, but he is trying to be proactive in curtailing the problem. He has held various clinics, with the idea of educating parents about football.

“Our sport has been under attack unjustly because of its supposed violence and the concussion issues,” he said. “I think it’s important to get accurate information out there about safety and equipment and all the things we're doing to try to prevent injuries.

“High-school football still is an institution and a way of life for many people and communities across America. We have to fight to keep it that way.”

Up and down
The number of players participating in high-school football in Ohio the past 10 years:
2004 46,550
2005 47,037
2006 47,586
2007 52,098
2008 55,392
2009 55,027
2010 47,955
2011 46,463
2012 45,882
2013 45,573
Source: National Federation of State High School Associations

By Steve Blackledge - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)

(c)2014 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

Visit The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) at

Distributed by MCT Information Services



Understandable ! Two moms and two dads !


More like education is more important than a bunch of neanderthals that end up with concussions and becoming Wal-Mart greeters for their careers.

More education less football


The fact that most coaches expect the kids to give up most of their summer and if they miss a practice for a family trip or something it is held against them is the biggest deterrent in my opinion. Seen or time and time again.


That I agree with. Practice starts a week after school is out. Lifting and running. This and that. Then the actual start of training at MIDNIGHT. Heaven forbid if you need to work a job, take a vacation, or work a farm. Yes I know it was done for years and kids still played ball, but now a days you are punished for not being at a practice. Miss an open gym and you sit out a game. There should be a way to make it work.

But, on the other hand, there are many that are just plain lazy. It is much easier to drink energy drinks, play video games and sit on the couch. Too many can't pass a physical or pee test either. Spend the summer drinking Monster and smoking weed it is hard to practice when it is 90*, in the sun for 6 hours.


I find it ridiculous that families have to arrange their entire lives around a high school sport. If someone is seriously trying to get a scholarship and wants to lift & practice every single day in the summer, then have at it. However, the majority of kids playing have no intention of playing college ball. They shouldn't be penalized for not living & breathing football 24/7.


In the big picture I cant say either way. My son was a three year letter winner and earned a scholarship for hah academics at a division three school. He had prefered walk on offers to several division 1 schools. He was 6 ft 3 295lbs ran a 5.1 forty and benched 225 22 times. He was injured in the last game of his freshman season at college.He decided then he had enough. He was projected as all conference his sophomore year and future all american. Point is he knew what it would take to continue with football and he said enough is enough. The thousands of hrs he had spent training for football glory was a dream that everyone else had decided for him. I am guilty. Proud as hell he decided enough was enough.


Your first statement is "In the big picture I can't say either way".
Then you go on to describe your son's experience...
1000s of hours spent on an activity that added up to nothing.
Plus how about the alternative-1000s of hours spent on something else that might have benefited the world and your son in general (like a college degree in a field that benefits society).
Lastly, why would you have left the whole thing up to your son to determine? Kids need a guide - someone who can advise them & inspire them to make decent choices. Sad the whole thing had to play out (wasting ALL his time) before "he decided" enough was enough.
None of it (football) adds up to anything --
Its just like all the kids that want to be rock stars (when they "grow up" lol)
Learning the difference between a hobby (all school sports/being a rock star/etc etc) and a career (actual educational skills leading to a job, like getting a college degree etc) is paramount for teens and only an adult who's been in the world awhile can help them determine the difference.
Too bad kids aren't wise enough to advise themselves & sad when this is their only option.


I have the same story. He now has two new hips and pain in every joint !


I agree some of the practices are ridiculous! However I am a football mom of a 3 year letter winner and he plans on playing in college too (his choice)! All I can say is some practice time is not bad because some of these kids do nothing all summer and upcoming high school freshman have no idea what they are up against! My son works and still went to practice! Some of these kids are not playing for the right reasons and are playing with no desire to play and that will end up getting their own teammates hurt because they could careless if they are out there!

William Jeffers...

The practice time to game playing time ratio is a joke. Then add in the risk of concussion or injury and it's not worth it to most kids who will never play beyond HS, and they don't have to sit on the couch watching TV either, there are plenty of other sports & activities out there that have higher practice to game play ratios and less risk.


Our kids have LOTS of activities and jobs they can do in the summers (besides sweating, lifting heavy things & running into each other for hours lol). They've got jobs & friends and they're simply sick and tired of SCHOOL RELATED THINGS!
It's not just football thats being rejected - it's band and golf and other school related things: our kids NEED A BREAK!
Shame on this coach for saying "kids would rather be in air conditioning playing video games/tv " - YES THATS RIGHT THEY WOULD lol
They work hard during the school year doing 100 million activities and trying to do the homework that (nowadays) takes 4-5 hours a night (plus).
There isn't even a "summer break" left for them: 1st or second week of June til 2nd week of August???? Wow a whole 2 months now???? lol
If my sons said "I'd really like to spend my 2 month break sweating, lifting heavy things & running into my classmates" I'd say WHAT?!?
Mine get paid to WORK in the summer (whats left of it). They get PAID.
The rest of the time they relax in air conditioning and play games /watch tv with their friends lol. They're on SUMMER BREAK! :-)


Re: "High school football numbers are down."

And with this in mind, Norwalk needs a new half million dollar "Reagan" exercise complex?


Staff need somewhere to exercise for free


Don't worry Winnie, your not paying for it.


Re: "Don't,"

And this from the guy who whined about the increase in the school levy? LMAO!!

Have a nice day, Cupcake.


This from an ex benchwarmer. lol

shovelhead's picture

It is a lot of work. My kid plays varsity football & has worked all winter on running track....lifted & ran all summer. He has not missed a single 2-a-day practice & also went to the Erie & Huron County fairs for 2 weeks everyday after practices. If you want it, it's not too difficult. It's all about teaching you're kids about discipline & sacrifice. Anything is obtainable & anything can happen. If you let the kid make up his own mind, you will have a 35 year old roommate sooner than you think.


What is he sacrificing and why?


People need to suck it up! Things have been done like this for years. Those people are still living til they are 80-90 years old. Concussion this, sweating that...blah blah blah. This world is becoming sissyfied and very lazy. Our children are going to have horrible work ethics due to parents that don't keep them active and parents that are too lazy off the system because they are obese. Well guess what if you exercise you wouldn't be as big. Show these children what hard work is all about. QUIT BOOHOOING AND SUCK IT UP! These kids need the extra push.


No, not every one is obese. Yes it has been done for years. I agreed to that. But it was not EVERY day for the WHOLE summer. It was NOT MANDATORY or else. We are not talking just football here. You do not NEED to plan a sport to be productive in life. Just because someone does not exercise 24/7 and play a sport, does not mean they will be a loser, living off the system, and obese. WOW.


Any opinion on the kids that have died on the fields? I guess they just sucked, right?


For decades NHS has only played around 13 kids on Friday night so if you aren't part of the "A" team what's the point? I'm totally against building this new athletic center. Sure, donations are going to build it, but it's going to be the taxpayers money that heats/cools and maintains it. In these lean times I believe we need to focus on keeping teachers teaching and support staff supporting.

shovelhead's picture

If you are not on the "A" team, then work harder. What happens when they are older & they don't get the promotion....just quit?


If I didn't get the promotion I thought I deserved I would put my resume out there. It is illogical to stay in a position when the leadership has made it clear you don't have a future there. What matters most in Norwalk is who your parents are, what sports they played when they went to school, and how active they are in supporting and coaching. Things that are completely out of the control of the kids. To those kids that have figured this out and chosen to go in other directions, I applaud you.

believe it

I'm pretty surprised that some people are on here actually saying it's ok that their kids would rather just sit and play video games all day than go out and sweat and do work. What's that teaching them? It's no wonder kids are lazy when their parents don't make them go outside and work or at least play real basketball and not video game basketball. I agree that I think kids just need to suck it up. I played sports and still had plenty of time for hanging with friends and doing "kids" stuff.


Ummm...I certainly didn't see anyone saying that they would rather their kids sit and play video games all day, every day. But when you cannot even go on a family vacation during the summer because little Johnny has football practice in July, it's ridiculous. Like I said, high school football should be an extra curricular know, part of a well rounded life...not a be all, end all.

Too many parents take it WAY too seriously...


My kids do not sit and play video games all day. My kids are active. We have other things to do. As another post said, unless you are of the right family, support the coach, the boosters, and kiss butt constantly, your child will not play anyway. This is really not about playing video games or staying in the house. My kids do go outside and work. What happens when you want to take a vacation for a week or so? Why should parents need a coach's permission or plan around a HS Sport?? That is ridiculous. Especially when they start a week after school is out. Another point to many of these star athletes go on to play college? Pro? Lets be realistic. There may be a few, but out of the hundreds in the district, not a high percentage that is for sure.

believe it

Kids do go on family vacations, I see it all the time. I've never heard a family say "we can't go on vacation because of football". And go read Presto's post, that was the main one I was referring to. Tell the kids to suck it up though, it's only four years out of their life. They have the rest of their lives to work and screw around if they want. Have fun and play a sport(or more).


That means society is moving from a cave man mind set to an educated mind set.

how many football players end up being doctors or lawyers?

less than .05% is the answer