CEDAR RAPIDS — Benches aren’t packed with players. The field is partially empty.
The number of football players has dropped at Cedar Rapids Washington — the biggest drop the school has seen in years.
“Numbers are down everywhere, not just at Washington,” Warriors football coach Maurice Blue said.
Several other schools in the Metro, Eastern Iowa and across the state are dealing with the same problem.
The biggest fear in playing football is getting injured, and parents and players themselves are concerned with that factor. Concussions are definitely the biggest worry.
“The news drives people away due to the fear of injuries,” Blue said.
However, football is now safer than it has ever been before, he said.
“There’s a lot more science to playing football safely now than there was 10 to 15 years ago,” Blue said.
Current players have picked up reasons as to why their number of teammates has declined.
“People aren’t receiving enough play(ing) time, which makes them not want to play anymore,” said sophomore Marcus Taylor.
With less playing time, people aren’t motivated to join the team and aren’t patient enough to receive the playing time they want. On the other hand, some just don’t have enough time to play football.
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“Nowadays, most sports are year-round, leaving no time to play seasonal sports, like football,” activities director Grant Schultz said.
Ideas are being brainstormed to attract more people to play football. The number one idea is to reach out to a younger crowd.
“We are currently reaching out to lower levels, such as middle school and junior teams, to join football in high school,” said Schultz, who believes numbers will increase in the future.
Camps are beneficial to getting more people playing the game when entering high school. It prepares them for the challenges and the physicality of playing at a higher, rigorous level.
The difficulty of the sport and the fear of injuries are the biggest concerns driving people away. Solving this issue will take a lot of work, but schools all over are working hard to overcome this decline.