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South Valley Journal

Football coaches use creative ways and plays to expand their teams

Aug 20, 2019 12:18PM ● By Greg James

The number of high school football players has decreased steadily recently; recruiting, multiple sporting opportunities and cost are contributing factors. (Photo courtesy of West Jordan football)

By Greg James | [email protected]

The problems facing high school football do not seem to be going away, according to new data released by the National Federation of State High School Associations. Neither is the downward trend in participation.

“Where are my lineman?” Kearns High School’s line coach Shawn Teo asked. “We don’t have the same number of kids playing football as we have had.”

In the past decade, according to NFHS data, football participation has dropped by nearly 6%. Many local coaches have experienced that trend. 

“We have had a handful of seniors come back for this season. I think our numbers are settling,” Hunter head coach Tarell Richards said. “We have tried to keep everyone involved year-round. They will want to stay if they build friendships with coaches and other players. Football is dying; our west side schools are battling the same things.”

Transfers to other schools is one thing that has affected schools in the past.

“We had kids in the past leave for football season and then transfer back for the spring so they can graduate with their friends,” Richards said.

This is a problem many schools experience.

“I want to develop only the talent here in Riverton and only those kids,” Riverton High head coach Jody Morgan said. “I don’t want other teams to steal my kids.” 

The Silverwolves coaches count 12 players that have left their program to attend other schools. 

“We have had other varsity coaches approach my athletes,” Morgan said. “I feel like some coaches treat it like the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’; they think these are guidelines and not rules. The UHSAA needs to stop going after individual kids and go after the programs that are doing it.” 

Cost, single-sport specialization and injuries are other concerns players and parents have with football. Some coaches believe it is important to creatively find opportunities for kids to play.

Hunter High has tried to hire coaches that know the community or have been part of the Wolverines’ football team in the past.

“We have coaches that believe in the community,” Richards said. “They are born and raised here. That builds trust with parents and players.”

The coaches have also changed practice plans to prevent injury by training in helmets only one day a week. They also try to find more chances for the kids to play.

“The kids that don’t play on Friday night always play on Thursday in the sub-varsity game,” Richards said.” We can’t play them two days in a row. It is not responsible because of the injury possibility.” 

Preparing the players mentally and physically is an important part of keeping kids on the field.

“Kids nowadays have ADD (attention deficit disorder); they want to do what has success,” Richards said. “Whether that is another team, another sport or school program. We have to be creative.” 

Riverton High players are becoming more involved in the youth programs.

“We attend little league games,” Morgan said. “We host a youth camp and are constantly trying to build a good relationship. We sell to the parents that we want to build good football players and great young men. Football is hard, and we try to relate it to everyday life.”

Richards pointed out he thinks the UHSAA is trying to help. They have recently realigned regions encouraging more rivalries.

“I think the new regions are good because we are now playing kids that have the same demographics,” he said. “I think the UHSAA has got it right with realignment. It makes it exciting.”