Why are some high school football programs, such as Kenmore East, struggling to meet minimum roster requirements?
Two factors are often cited as to why some students don’t play football – one old and one new.
For years, high school teams have been losing potential players to work. The sport is competing with the appeal of having spending money. The latest cellphone, sneakers, or other trendy item comes with a price tag.
“There are a lot of people around the school that could be out there, and could definitely help us,” said Josh Moore, a senior lineman at Kenmore East who started to play football only last year. “But their have their excuses, with work or something. It seems like everyone is too busy to come.”
Kenmore East coach Pat Veltri added, “Are there distractions? Yeah, but hey, there always have been distractions. When I was in school, coaches screamed about girlfriends. Now they scream about cellphones.”
The other issue is more difficult to evaluate. Football has received a great deal of attention lately for issues connected to concussions and head injuries. The National Center for Injury Prevention reported that 47 percent of high school football players are diagnosed with a concussion every season. Are there parents who aren’t letting their kids play football?
State and local officials are well aware of the emphasis on preventing head injuries, and have taken preventative steps.
“I think in terms of precautions, we are going the right way to protect the kids,” Veltri said. “Every time you get a headache, it’s not a concussion. The way our protocols are, they are set up to protect the kids. … If someone goes to the trainer, we’ve got to say stop, or slow down.
“New York State has limited the amount of full contact we can do. We’ve done some things ourselves, the way we teach tackling has changed. … It’s still a contact sport, but we’re headed in the right direction.”
In the case of Kenmore East, the attractiveness of football maybe has been damaged by the team’s losing records in recent years. The Bulldogs haven’t had a winning season since 2007, although they were close to .500 in the last three seasons.
“That plays a role in” the turnout, Veltri said. “They think, ‘If I’m going to spend all this time practicing, I want to have a chance to win.’ That hasn’t always happened.
“But we’ve got an $8 million football field coming next year. If that doesn’t motivate kids to come out and play under the Friday Night Lights …”