The Collinsville athletic department canceled the remainder of its junior varsity football season for 2017.
Athletic Director Darin Lee cites the strain injuries have placed on an already lean JV roster.
“We have to look out for the safety of the kids and just decided we can’t go forward with the remainder of the season,” Lee said.
Lee added the junior varsity roster has been hit hardest by varsity promotions, not lack of participation among underclass players. The Kahoks start only five seniors on the varsity football team.
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“We’re starting a lot of sophomores, and we’re not left with the numbers at junior varsity,” Lee said.
Other metro-east programs have canceled underclass games because of similar concerns. Both Granite City and Marquette have canceled junior varsity and freshman games with Collinsville, Lee said.
To this point, no other Southwestern Conference school has suspended the remainder of an underclass schedule, however. Belleville East, citing lack of participation, elected to not field a sophomore-only team as it has in years past.
“I do think we’ll maintain three teams for the entire season next year,” Lee said.
According to a study released by the National Federation of High Schools last spring, participation in high school sports has reached an all-time high. But, while it remains the top participatory sport by a wide margin, high school football numbers continue to slide.
Nationally, there were 2.5 percent fewer athletes playing football in 2016 than in the year before. In Illinois, participation in football has fallen nearly 15 percent during the past 10 years — from 51,334 players in 2007 to 42,682 by the end of last year.
Coaches in the metro-east sited a number of factors for the downward trend. Some said the widening range of extracurricular opportunities have drawn players away, as has a trend among athletes to focus on a single sport.
Most acknowledge that the trend is fueled by heightened media attention on concussions and the prevalence of CTE, a degenerative brain disease found in former college and professional players.