LOCKPORT, N.Y. (WIVB) – Declining enrollments, fear of concussions and growing popularity of other sports are fueling lower turnout for football programs across the country. Here at home, a local organization is training coaches in concussion safety in hopes football will remain a popular sport among high school students in Western New York.
Derek Dunstan, Niagara- Wheatfield Head Coach said, “We are taking steps to keep things safe, or safer.”
Youth football coaches from around the region are running through safety drills Saturday, so they can teach their kids proper practices to deal with concussions. He said, “We grew up in an era where you kind of just, you took that hit. And you send them back in the game.”
This isn’t the case anymore. Area school districts like Fredonia and Ken-Ton are finding it harder to find enough players to maintain varsity and JV football teams. Some schools, especially in rural areas, have had to merge programs. Coaches said part of that, is because of a fear of concussions.
Dwayne Taplin from the Buffalo Vets said, “Football is a physical sport, so we have to be honest about that. We have certified coaches, guys who are interested in the safety and welfare of their players, first.”
It’s the first time the “heads up” coaches program has come to the area. They’re taught by USA football trainers the proper safety regulations, to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Ray Turpin, President of the Niagara Erie Youth Sports Association said, “The kids are being taught the proper way to tackle, proper way to block, there’s more recognition of concussion awareness. There’s more recognition of sudden cardiac arrest, there’s more recognition for heat and hydration.”
Leader say you can’t eliminate concussions altogether, but you can limit contact time and make sure coaches and parents are knowledgeable to keep their kids safe.