More Evidence that Youth Football Numbers Declining

 
West Allis Youth Football is stepping up its game this year to encourage more sign ups for next year. Enrollments lagged so much this spring that the program was only able to field one team for each grade from fifth through eighth. It normally has two teams – the Badgers consisting of players from the east side of town and the Wolverines of players from the west side.

The program will tackle the problem by again sending post cards to the home of every youngster in fourth through seventh grade, something it started this year. That is in addition to the fliers it normally sends home with students. West Allis Youth Football is a program of the West Allis-West MilwaukeeRecreation Department. For the first time, the program will offer preliminary sign ups for 2016 at Saturday’s banquet before the last game of the season. A small down payment will hold a spot for a player.

Sign ups rebound

Enrollments rebounded to some extent this year after a slow start, but too late to form additional teams, said Youth Football President Scott McDowell. In March, the program had 25 players for each team. Now, there are 50 on one team and 44 on another, he said.

The organizers had faith that the sign ups would eventually come through and held room for two teams per grade with the league.

“We gambled the kids would come,” McDowell said.

But they didn’t come through in time, and the program was fined $3,100, which stung.

“That’s a lot of equipment,” McDowell said.

The fine also was part of why the program switched from the Wisconsin All American Youth Football League to the Classic Youth Football League, he said.

Kids wanted

The program goal is to get parents to sign their children up early enough to restore the Badgers and the Wolverines, McDowell said.

With such big teams as they have now, McDowell said, “It’s a challenge to give playing time to every kid and remain competitive.” Teams that are too small also have a problem.

“With 16 or 18 kids on a team, there’s no way they’ll be competitive,” he said.

Part of the challenge of getting enrollments in March for a season that doesn’t start until fall is that parents and children are thinking Little League that’s right around the corner, McDowell said.

Troubling trend

That has always been the case, but he has noticed a new trend.

Now that a lot of sports can be played or practiced yearround, he said, “More and more parents are pigeon-holing their kids into one sport.” Baseball, for example, has batting cages indoors for winter practice, he said.

Parental worries about football injuries also are part of the problem, but not a big part, in his view, McDowell said. What is important is offering a winning program, and that goes up and down, he said.

This season’s seventh-graders were undefeated as fifthgraders, but their record is only three wins against five loses so far this year, he said before Saturday’s match ups. Last year, they only lost three games, he said.

Changing leagues isn’t the problem, he said, as both the old and the new leagues are about equally competitive.

Jane Ford-Stewart; this article was republished with permission from the original publisher West Allis NOW newspaper.

 

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