Coaches will tell you seasons can often be unpredictable, not only for the play on the field, but for the teams themselves.
The number of players trying out for football teams continues to change, some good, some bad, so we wanted to ask coaches why they think this is happening, and what does the future have in store for high school football in western Mass.
Fans pack high school fields every Friday night to see the best football players in western Mass go head to head, but for some coaches, the concerns come long before the first snap, or even the first practice.
They come at tryouts, where the number of players seems to be dwindling before their eyes.
"We were close to 65-70 kids when I first started. Right now we are about 40," said Coach Taylor.
That is over the course of a 10-year coaching span for South Hadley Head Football Coach Scott Taylor, who told Western Mass News that there are a number of reasons numbers are dropping.
Some believe it’s from fear of concussions to kids at a young age.
A study from the National Federation of State High School associations found that the number of football sign-ups fell for the 6th time in 7 years, down by nearly 30,000 players, and what was once a football town has quickly become a soccer one.
But some teams have the opposite effect. Numbers are going up, particularly freshmen, and their job is to teach the game the right way to keep that foundation strong.
Chicopee High Head Coach Alex Efstratios told Western Mass News that the Pacers are up 10 players from last year, and have 23 freshmen, despite losing the freshmen team in 2015.
He and his staff are trying to keep the numbers up by keeping the crown of the helmet down, avoiding helmet to helmet collisions.
"Now it's more of a shoulder tackle, getting leverage. A shoulder tackle, it’s called a gator tackle when you're wrapping the legs, takes the head right out of it. The way I teach it here, the head is not involved whatsoever."
We reached out to other schools as well. Frontier Regional, Ludlow and Westfield all had declining numbers, while Central high numbers were up.
Frontier Regional believes it is sometimes the cycle of sports.
Some classes simply have more players than others, regardless of the safety concerns.
Others, like Ludlow, have 17 state championships in boys soccer alone, and have nearly 100 boys tryout.
Most western Mass teams do not field a freshman team, but most will tell you, they are eager to find a way to get them back on the field.
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