Fewer students are turning out to join local high school football teams, according to a new sports participation survey from the California Interscholastic Federation.
Some parents and students believe football is the most physical sport in high school, and the survey shows fewer athletes turning out for those teams. According to CIF’s recent survey the state saw a decline of 2.87% for the third straight year.
“We have been to a couple of different passing leagues and have been told that the numbers are down,” said Jim Bittner who is entering his 5th years as the head football coach at Rio Mesa in Oxnard.
Bitter said last year’s freshman and JV squads were unusually small. This season is a different story.
“This year our freshman class is up a little,” said Bittner. “We are up just over 40 but the JV and Varsity is still down, under 40 so we are looking at 36 players on the team.”
Pacifica High School also saw a slight decrease in football players, especially on the freshman team.
“We started out in the summer with only 18 to 20 guys at one point,” said head coach Mike Moon. “I mean 15 years ago when I started coaching, I think everybody under the sun wanted to play football. There were like 80 guys coming out for the freshman football team and you were having to deal with numbers and now that is not the case.”
“The difficulty now is trying to find games for the freshman team,” said Bittner. “We have had to find three separate games for the freshman team but because teams don’t have them anymore.”
Power house football program Oaks Christian recently had to drop the freshman football team after only 18 players came out. The Lions did go through a coaching change, but many schools up and down the coast says there are many reasons for the lack of participants.
“I think there is a decline in enrollment of kids maybe doing other sports, maybe because of the media attention,” said Moon. “The media covering concussion or CTE might make it questionable, but my son plays football. He is going to be a junior here at Pacifica and he plays for me and I am not worried about it. The reason why I am not worried about it is because the amount of money and technology that is going into it is really protecting the kids.”
“Along with the injuries there are other factors,” said Bittner. “Kids are really interested in getting a scholarship and parents are shopping their kids around to different schools trying to figure out where to send them.”