Football Turnout Down in Calif. High Schools

August 2, 2018

On Wednesday, the California Interscholastic Federation released data showing that participation in high school athletics in the state of California is at an all-time high, but football participation recently declined. According to The Modesto Bee, there are 808,567 Californian girls and boys participating in high school athletics this year, a 2.95 percent increase since a year ago. The highest increase was in boys' basketball, which has 47,584 players this year, a 3.18 percent increase since last year. The greatest decrease was in football with 94,286 boys are participating this year, a 2.87 percent decline from last year.

Trent Merzon, who coaches football at Oakdale, said his program's participation numbers have remained consistent despite a “strong media push about the dangers of football.” Jeremy Plaa, who coaches football at Downey High School, which has seen its roster fall from 55 players in 2016 to 45 in 2017, said that while he understands parental concerns about the “concussion scare,” better coaching and equipment have made football safer than ever.

Jason McCoy, who coaches football at Gregori, attributed the sport's declining participation to the youth of today.

“It takes a special person to play football,” McCoy said. “There are so many kids these days playing video games, on their phones or social media. As a whole, this generation is soft.”

Scott Edwards, head football coach at Central Valley High in Ceres, said it is difficult to get children interested in sports if they don't start well before high school.

“Interest is never regained or gained if they didn’t play at a young age,” he said.

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