Youth football participation declines as worries mount about concussions

By on March 31, 2018

The artificial turf outside Addison Trail High School was alive with action as a practice session of the Addison Cowboys youth football club got underway. Shoulder pads cracked, coaches hollered and cheerful parents kept watch on the sidelines — all signs, to the inexpert eye, of a sport in good shape.

But ask club commissioner Ron Maxwell about the state of youth football and he’ll tell you it’s not like it was a few years ago. Not even close.

“(The field) was full,” he said. “It was full of players. We all couldn’t practice here. … It was crazy when we had 12 teams.”

The Cowboys are now down to four teams, a decline that mirrors the uneasy state of youth football in the Chicago area and beyond. One program, run by the Park District of Highland Park, shut down last month after only 11 kids signed up, down from a peak of more than 150.

Coaches and youth league officials say several factors are responsible for the drop-off. Sports such as fall baseball are attracting kids who once would have played football. A fickle economy is forcing dads who used to volunteer to focus on their jobs. And video games and smartphones are proving more of an attraction than helmets and tackling dummies.

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Article by

John Keilman
Chicago Tribune

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