The sport known for hard-hitting tackles is now taking a hit when it comes to participation numbers. As fall practices begin, high schools across the country are seeing fewer students trying out for football.
This has some local teams changing how they coach the game.
“Some schools, especially the smaller schools, hurting for numbers of kids,” Hilton High School head coach Richard Lipani said.
In the past year, some smaller schools have discussed merging their football teams.
Athletic directors tell 13WHAM News that others have cut their junior varsity programs.
And now, coaches are brushing up on new techniques through online resources that aim to teach kids safer ways to play this contact sport. This comes amid growing concerns about concussions and other injuries stemming from playing football.
“All kinds of rules now to avoid contact, helmet to helmet, blindside hits, they're trying to do a lot, hopefully it won't take away from the game,” Lipani continued.
“We don't use our head. Our head is going to be up at all times. If you don't put your head up, you're going to have problems,” Lipani added.
For schools that are losing players, there's now talk about re-structuring the game to fit those teams.
“If they only have 22 kids, they go from 11 on 11, they can play eight on eight instead," said Lipani.
All to keep those athletes on the field.
“Football’s too great a game for kids not only to excel at a sport, but things they learn, lifelong lessons as a sport, to give up," said Lipani.
For more information on resources for high school coaches, click here. Coaches say it's a new direction for football.