The high school football season opened on Friday night. Friday night lights are back in nearly every town in America.
It is a great time for athletes, coaches and fans, and everyone involved in the game of football is flying high. Football teams and their coaches have worked since the end of the last season to prepare for the new one. They all have high hopes of improving over last year’s record and make the state playoffs at the end of the season. Schools with strong programs hope to continue to dominate their opponents, and schools with a struggling program hope to turn the corner.
High school football is a sport that is not easy to maintain a continuously successful program. The Kansas City-area football programs continue to be the very best in the state. This year should prove to be the same.
However, high school football participation is down in the area. The word from most high schools is that they have seen a drop in numbers. Class 5 schools in particular are struggling to get kids out. One local program had only five freshmen out the first day of school. Their arch rival had a mere 11 out. Both of these schools had about the same number of total players out, which is about 45 for all classes, freshman through senior.
It is staggering to think that a Class 5 school could have a program with barely enough players. It is sad that so few are willing to make the sacrifice to play on Friday nights.
It is difficult for the average fan to wrap their head around the idea of football as an industry being in trouble. Billions of dollars are made every year in college and NFL football. NFL players have enormous contracts to participate in a game they have enjoyed all their lives. We all love the fall with a high school game on Friday, several college games on Saturday and NFL games on Sunday, Monday and even Thursday.
The reality is that if the game is to continue to be America’s game, the powers that be need to assess the future. Soccer has been a big reason for athletes to turn away from football. In soccer, smaller athletes are able to compete. In addition, concussions and other injuries have grown into a major concern for young athletes and their parents.
Do not get me wrong – every kid should be able to play any sport they choose in high school and be able to enjoy every minute of that time. Football can be a great lesson builder. Football practice is very hard work, and it has become popular for kids to stay in the comfort of their home and spend time playing video games.
Players at all levels need to enjoy playing the game. High school programs are in competition for high school athletes. College and professional football players have spent their lives up to that point with the game of football as their No. 1 goal.
In reality, only 1 percent of high school football players go on and play in college. A very low percentage of college players will move on to the NFL. High school football programs are, therefore, composed of primarily student athletes who will end their football career at the high school level.
We get caught up in college scholarship money and those big paychecks for professional players, but the sole purpose of high school football is to teach life lessons and to make the game fun and safe. Football as we know it in 2014 could change drastically in the next several years. If young people are in fear of an injury or if the game is just too darn hard for them, the future of this great sport could be in trouble.
From the little league programs to the NFL, we need to have enough foresight to address the negative issues of the game and to work at making the game better down the road.
• Royals fans who are waiting for something bad to happen to knock the team out of the race need to get rid of the negative vibes and enjoy the ride. It has been a great summer for baseball in Kansas City, so enjoy the good and forget the bad. Remember, anything can happen in the game of baseball.
• My quote of the week comes from Sydney J. Harris, a newspaper columnist: “Ninety percent of the world’s woe comes from people not knowing themselves, their abilities, their frailties and even their real virtues. Most of us go almost all the way through life as complete strangers to ourselves – so how can we know anyone else?”
Tim Crone, a William Chrisman High School graduate, is a former activities director and coach for Blue Springs High School and is a host of a weekly radio show, “Off the Wall with Tim Crone,” on KCWJ (1030 AM) 5-6 p.m. every Thursday. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org