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KY High School Football Experiencing Steady Decline in Participation

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.

Article written by Zack Geoghegan

Covering all things NBA and UK Hoops. Follow me on Twitter: @ZGeogheganKSR

14 Comments for KY High School Football Experiencing Steady Decline in Participation



  1. nocode96
    10:32 pm August 20, 2019 Permalink

    This isn’t just a Kentucky thing. Parents aren’t letting kids play. Even former nfl hall of gamers aren’t letting their kids play. Football is going to have to adapt, just like it has plenty in the past, or we are going to lose it.



  2. Han
    12:22 am August 21, 2019 Permalink

    People who say kids aren’t tough nowadays are also the kind of people who say being bullied builds character and teaches you how the world is.



    • Cousins Fake Tooth
      4:59 am August 21, 2019 Permalink

      Kids are pussies these days. And the best coach I ever had was one that yelled and screamed at me.



    • Skooms
      6:17 am August 21, 2019 Permalink

      Is that you Coach Billy Clyde??



  3. DelrayCat
    12:35 am August 21, 2019 Permalink

    Even if you quit playing after high school. The years of abuse on the body from pee-wee on takes its toll. And then from 45 on….most pay a big price for that time played with a life of arthritis in the back, neck, knees, and shoulders. I truly love the sport…but once you get old, it wasn’t worth it unless you made millions doing it.



  4. zoupman
    3:56 am August 21, 2019 Permalink

    Another factor is the way the KHSAA allows the private schools to recruit. Fact certain schools don’t have to play by the rules has taken its toll.



    • RICKSVD
      5:37 am August 21, 2019 Permalink

      Yea like male doesn’t recruit. Fact is they do. I know players past and present that have no business going there education wise, but are good at football, so a gifted kid academically is at lesser academic school.



    • bbn606
      9:14 am August 21, 2019 Permalink

      I don’t believe there is a kid that has quit playing because a private school recruits. That is a another whole problem in itself.



  5. Big Bry 1
    4:15 am August 21, 2019 Permalink

    If your son was legitimately brilliant at 10 years old, would you encourage him to play?

    I love football. I really love UK football. But, football is a dying sport. Not dead in 5 or 20 years but dying. In 50 years, football will be looked at like Boxing or Horse Racing, a great sport from a by gone era but one that society has outgrown



    • RICKSVD
      5:40 am August 21, 2019 Permalink

      Kids are wimps, and horse racing is from a by gone Era? That’s a stretch. Horse racing will be around till the end times.



    • Skooms
      6:22 am August 21, 2019 Permalink

      Totally agree Rick! Horse racing has been around for thousands of years. Plus it’s still huge in Europe and the Middle East.



  6. UKiyaoyas
    8:23 am August 21, 2019 Permalink

    I played football all my life. Never at a high level and not past HS. I have some aches and pains still hanging around. Had a few concussions too. Not sure sure how those will end up in the long run but as of right now, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’d go back and play again. Probably try a little harder too. If I had a son instead of daughters I’d encourage him to play.



  7. Bill the Cat
    1:42 pm August 21, 2019 Permalink

    Would be interesting to see if they can determine WHERE the numbers are declining. My theory is they are not declining at schools that recruit but are in other communities. I coach and ref at different levels and what I see is the schools that recruit (and we know it goes on) have superior talent and often play against smaller or weaker schools. Those weaker schools may have a decent team every 4-5 years but still can’t compete with those that recruit and this causes the kids from the smaller schools away from the game. So, my theory is the declines are in those smaller communities throughout the state. Don’t tell me for one second that some schools in multi school counties don’t recruit kids within their county. (Watched one baseball game last year where a public school team had kids that lived in 4 different counties in their starting lineup vs a team that barely had enough to field a team) And we ALL know the CAL, Trinity and Lex Caths of the state recruit. The odd man out is the small county schools. Is this where the decline is?? Perhaps their kids are tired of losing to larger schools that recruit? Or, those multi-school counties whose districts have been raided are tired of their talent being taken? Inquiring minds want to know. Dig deeper KSR. prove my theory wrong. Otherwise, realign the KHSAA so all schools are on an equal playing field then you may see an increase.



  8. Yellowshirt618
    10:00 pm August 21, 2019 Permalink

    There are more for kids to do these days. Granted it’s a combination of other reasons too. Football is a difficult sport with little instant gratification from training. Our society is becoming more and more lazy…obesity is a serious issue. These are all generalities but still true.