In ten to fifteen years, we are going to look at the high school football game, scratching out heads and saying, “what happened?” The participation numbers are down and will continue to go down each year as we allow this great sport to have the life strangled out of it by something that we did ourselves. And we are going to look at the remaing programs and not recognize the game.
Several years ago, the SCHSL decided that, in the wake of a lot of information relating to safety that wasn’t necessarily accurate, it was in the best interest to no longer allow football athletes to participate in eight quarters of football in our state. There has been so much misinformation about CTE that the initial onslaught scared the hell out of parents of football players. In the past, some of the junior varsity players could start and play their games on Thursday nights and then dress on Friday night for varsity, standing in reserve in case of injuries or blow out games. It was a good thing. It allowed for the development of these younger players on junior varsity and then the possibility of getting them some limited snaps at the varsity level in certain situations. That I can recall, there were no serious injuries that can be linked to the eight quarters as the cause.
The other thing this allowed was for freshmen football team to play other freshmen. 14 year old’s on 14 year old’s. 9th grade on 9th grade. That was safe. While we all know that there are some freshmen that are mature enough to play up, the vast majority of them have no business playing against 16 and 17 year old’s.
Now, with the prohibition of the eight-quarter allowance, we have seen junior varsity and/or 9th grade team programs dropped, and a lot of the result of this is what we now see as diminishing participation numbers in this sport. The sad thing is, the main reason this discussion of doing away with the rule ever starting is there were coaches out there who abused the rule, having some players starting on both nights because for some reason, winning JV football games was important to them.
When a junior varsity program gets cut, that means the sophomores and juniors that would be starting and playing full games on Thursday nights, developing as players, are now forced to play varsity football before they are ready. The results of this are that the majority of these kids work their tails off all week at practice, getting pummeled by the older players and then as a reward get to stand on the sidelines on Friday nights with little hope of actually getting in the game.
Guess what? This is 2019. Fifteen-year old’s are not going to put in all that work to just stand and watch a football game on Friday night. Those are the ones who are leaving the game. There is too much for them to do in todays day and age – jobs, hang out and party with their peers. It’s just not going to happen for all of those kids to stay involved.
Killing the freshman team is an option. But now you have a vast number of players who are not ready physically to compete with 15 and 16 and sometimes 17 year old’s playing junior varsity. They may be playing against programs that DO have a freshman team so they are facing all older players. Please explain to me how THAT is safe?
Proposal to fix this? Well, we aren’t going to get it voted back by the membership. The Executive Director of the SCHSL is dead set against allowing this to ever come back. It would take an almost unanimous floor vote at the Athletic Directors and Administrators conference to get that done and that won’t happen.
Georgia allows 6 quarters. While this would require self-monitoring, which was the case with the eight quarters, it is a feasible thought. Alabama allows 8-quarters but they play their freshman and JV games on Mondays, giving three days between the sub varsity and varsity contests. This also enables the program to practice all of the players together if they choose to do so.
I am not going to say that the safety issue isn’t real. But I am going to say, and I have a medical background, that I am not a hardline believer in all of the research that has been thrown at the public in relation to CTE. But there have been errors demonstrated in the studies bout the correlation between age exposure and development of CTE. Also, the acceptance of CTE only being in people who experience RHI or play contact sports has been shown to not be true but because of the media it is still a widely held belief. Not one shred of evidence can be shown demonstrating that playing contact sports as a youth causes CTE and these problems later in life. There is not a single article in scientific journal that can show evidence of that. And there is not one piece of scientific evidence demonstrating that concussions cause CTE. The misinformation is staggering and the panic it has caused among parents and administrative groups like the SCHSL and teh NFHSS has made an impact.
And why the limitation on JUST football if this is a legitimate safety issue? There are currently no limitations on the number of games/periods/quarters that soccer or lacrosse players can play in a week. I believe if you would take a look at the number of concussions that are reported from soccer, including girls soccer, cheerleading and wrestling you’d be surprised. So then, is this really about safety?
Parents of football players need to get involved in this discussion. If we are going to save football in this state, and really every other state, we need to get the kids back on the field and keep kids from walking away from the game. While this prohibition of the eight-quarter rule is not the only thing accosting high school football, it is the one that is currently strangling the life out of it in our state. Talk to your state representatives. Let them know your concerns.
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