High school football season is right around the corner.
Local teams have fewer players than they’ve ever had.
And no one seems to understand why.
Roster numbers are down for varsity football in 2019 with several coaches saying that their spring numbers are lower than they’d like them to be.
More puzzling than the numbers is the explanations. No one seems to fully have a handle on why there’s been a dip, though a consensus seems clear that this generation just isn’t much for playing football.
“This is a hard game. It’s a physical game,” CCA football coach Randy Boquet said. “This is not an easy sport to play. We’re up front and we tell our kids that from the first day. And for a lot of people, they’re just not cut out for it. A lot of kids want the glory, but not the work that comes before it.”
“It’s not like the olden days,” Terrebonne football coach Gary Hill added. “Before, when a kid came out, we knew we had that kid for the season. Now, after one or two days, kids decide, ‘Hey, it’s hot. I don’t want to do that anymore.’ The numbers we start with and finish with are a lot different now compared to what they used to be.”
There are multiple theories as to why numbers are down, and they all revolve around the same somewhat universal theme.
“Kids today are soft,” said Thibodaux baseball coach Shane Trosclair with a laugh. Trosclair is a longtime football assistant coach in the area.
Boquet said kids want to score touchdowns and get all the attention, but don’t want the hard work that leads into the season. At CCA, the Lions have a couple dozen true varsity players each year because of the size of their school.
South Lafourche football coach Blake Forsythe agreed. He said because of the timing of the season, football has a built in disadvantage because almost all of the preparation is done during warm weather months. At South Lafourche, the Tarpons have a little more than 50 kids currently in their program. Forsythe said he wishes that number was closer to the 60s or 70s.
“I think a lot of kids today just don’t have what it takes to be part of the whole process,” Forsythe said. “If we can get them to the season, most of the time at that point, they’re hooked and locked in. But we lose so many kids who just can’t handle the time, the heat or whatever else before we get to that point.”
Ellender football coach Dave McCormick added other wrinkles.
McCormick said he thinks football competes with too many things and that’s part why numbers are down. There are more varsity sports now than there were 30 years ago and there are, quite frankly, more things to do.
The Patriots currently have numbers in the 35-40 range at the varsity level. McCormick said to be that thin in Class 4A puts his team at a competitive disadvantage because of a lack of depth.
“These kids want to stay playing those video games,” McCormick said with a laugh. “I think kids today just like to stay inside more. They like to sleep more. I think they we have a hard time getting them to come and get beat up with us when there are so many other things they can do. It’s not like it used to be. It used to be we’d sit around and say, ‘Man, there’s nothing to do. Let’s go out and play football.’ Now, kids think it’s cool to do other things.”
But one word that didn’t come up in conversations is concussions.
Long considered a culprit for a drop in football participation, local football coaches didn’t bring up the common head injuries when asked why they believed participation was down.
The Times spoke to athletic trainers this past week and they all said they believe the game is safer now than it was 10 years ago because coaches now have concussion education and know when to take players out of the game.
Coaches say they believe safety is a small piece of the puzzle for kids, but they add that it’s still just a small piece of the puzzle.
“I think it’s more that this is a game that separates the men from the boys,” Boquet said. “To get to those Friday night lights, you have to test your body to the limit. And for a lot of people, they’re just not willing to do that. They’re not willing to put in the time, the work and the physical wear and tear – not like they used to, at least.” •