The most popular sport in the state of Kentucky has seen a steady decline in participation over the previous four years.
In an article posted by Lee Howard of WKYT, football is losing high school players in the Bluegrass state, and there are many possible factors that can be attributed to the drop in numbers.
The Kentucky High School Athletics Association reported a loss of more than 1,000 players (from 14,305 in 2015 – an all-time high – to 13,0745 in 2019), which isn’t a massive decrease, but enough to raise concerns.
“For us that’s not that big of a decline, but where we are losing them is the non-varsity level,” Tackett told WKYT. “The problem is if you sit and think about it, that doesn’t bode well for the future.”
The overall number of high school student-athletes competing in the state of Kentucky last season was actually at an all-time high despite the drop in football.
The most attributable factor in the decline would be the controversies surrounding piling evidence of CTE found in NFL players along with high numbers of concussions. Which is a valid criticism regarding what is an obviously more dangerous sport than others, such as basketball, baseball, or soccer. Parents don’t want their child to potentially receive repeated blows to the head at an early age. These numbers shouldn’t be shocking. But some coaches still take the old school route in their explanation.
“I don’t think we live in a society now where maybe toughness is as respected as it was maybe 15 to 20 years ago, and so the badge of courage or the badge of honor you might say, that I had when I grew up playing is kind of gone or washed away,” said East Jessamine coach Mike Bowlin to WKYT.
OR, maybe. Justtttt maybe. Parents actually want to see their children not landing back first on the field after a crushing blindside blow to the cranium. This isn’t a matter of being weak or tough. It’s a matter of seeking out what parents believe is best for their child. Personally, football is not a sport I would want my son to participate in. And I have zero issues with anyone who does, either. It comes down to safety and how safe or unsafe the environment is deemed.
And until there can be concrete evidence which supports the positive health impacts of playing football longterm, these numbers will only likely continue to slide.