Another Northern Virginia high school is suspending its varsity football program for the 2018 season due to a lack of participation. Manassas Park High School will play a junior varsity schedule, principal Pamela Kalso wrote in a letter to parents Tuesday. Team practices were routinely drawing only 15 players, she said, which raised safety concerns.
“In consultation with the [Virginia High School League], their recommendation is that no member school with has less than 25 students physically fit and eligible for participation engage in varsity football,” she said. She added there is a “strong plan” in place to revive the team in 2019.
Manassas Park is the second high school in recent weeks to drop its varsity football team. Park View High School in Loudoun County canceled its varsity schedule after only 18 players reported for tryouts.
“Given the competitive nature of Park View’s schedule, we didn’t want the players exposed to a heightened risk of injury,” Loudoun County Public Schools information officer Wayde Byard said.
He added that in the 18 years he has worked for the Loudoun County school system this is the first time a varsity football team has folded.
The declines come amid the sport’s struggles nationwide. High school football — beset by injury concerns, single-sport specialization, rising equipment and participation costs and demographic shifts — has battled in some communities to maintain a foothold.
High school football enrollment dropped 4.5 percent nationwide from 2006 to 2016, the last year for which data is available, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.
“Football can be a great game, and still can offer many benefits when served up well. But it is being squeezed from several angles, all of them 21st century concerns,” Tom Farrey, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Sports and Society Program, told The Washington Post in 2017. “It takes a lot to do football right, and more than a few youth and school programs are groaning under that pressure.”
Manassas Park upperclassmen will be eligible to play the Cougars’ junior varsity season.
Park View juniors and seniors are eligible to transfer to neighboring Dominion High School and play right away. The VHSL has waived transfer restrictions.
Centennial High School in Ellicott City, Md., disbanded its varsity squad last year amid similar issues. It played a junior varsity schedule with a roster of 43 players. It is slated for a full varsity schedule this season.
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