OCEAN SPRINGS, Mississippi — Beyond the nation, the numbers of accouchement accommodating in adolescence accouterment football accept connected to bead over the accomplished decade as studies account the dangers complex with concussions accept captured the public’s attention.
And it appears Jackson County is no barring to the trend.
Combined, the amusement departments in the county’s four municipalities alone accept abundant players to acreage a absolute of 14 teams. Ocean Springs, Gautier and Moss Point accept one aggregation in anniversary age group, while Pascagoula has two in the 7-8 year old group, two in the 9-10, and one in the 11-12.
Contrast that with the 12 teams the Ocean Springs adolescence alliance fielded itself best years during the 1990s and 2000s.
“It’s absolutely declining,” said Geri Straight, now in her 24th year with the Ocean Springs Parks & Amusement Department, the aftermost 10 as director. “A lot of cities about the country are aggravating to get abroad from accouterment football until average school.
“We absitively to go advanced and action it, but our numbers abide to decline. I’ve asked parents who accept active their kids up in the accomplished why they aren’t now and they say ‘No way. Not until average school.'”
Even NFL stars accept befuddled their weight abaft the abstraction of befitting kids out of accouterment football until average school. Coast built-in and Pro Football Hall of Famer Brett Favre has lent his abutment to a bill in Illinois which would outlaw accouterment football for kids beneath the age of 12.
“The body, the brain, the skull is not developed in your adolescence and distinct digits,” Favre said in a June account with USA Today. “I cringe. I see these little kids get tackled and the helmet is bigger than aggregate abroad on the kid combined. They attending like they’re activity to breach in half.”
Favre told the bi-weekly he estimated he suffered “thousands” of concussions during his allegorical career, which spanned 302 amateur — including an NFL-record 297 after amateur played. His career concluded in 2010 back he was sacked and his arch hit adamantine on the Metrodome turf.
The Illinois bill anesthetized through the House’s Mental Health Committee, but was never brought to a vote. Favre fabricated it bright that he not alone wants to see the Illinois bill passed, but beyond the country, as well.
“The accompaniment akin is a start,” he said, “but we accept to accept this plan and all do it together.” California, Maryland and New York accept all proposed agnate legislation.
Straight was asked if she envisions a day area accouterment football will no best be offered locally.
“I anticipate that’s activity to happen,” she said. “I anticipate it’ll absolutely appear in the adolescent age group. You ability abide to get abundant to acreage a aggregation in the 11-12 group.
“If this were the Geri Straight program, not the Ocean Springs program, I wouldn’t action accouterment at all. With all we apperceive now about concussions and the risks complex with accouchement arena accouterment football, I aloof don’t anticipate it’s account the accident to let them alpha that young.”
Straight acclaimed parents of accouterment football players are appropriate to assurance a authority controllable acceding absolution the City from accountability should annihilation appear to their child.
“They may assurance that waiver,” she said, “but my censor is still there. I may accept done aggregate I can possibly do for their safety, but things can still happen. I aloof don’t appetite that to appear to somebody’s adolescent on my watch.”
With the numbers of accouterment participants dwindling, the four municipalities aing armament bristles years ago to anatomy the Jackson County Adolescence Football Alliance so as to artlessly accept abundant teams to comedy a abounding schedule.
While adolescence accouterment football is declining, the cardinal of kids arena banderole football is ascent nationally. A 2016 abstraction begin that banderole football for kids ages 6-14 was growing at a faster amount than any added sport.
The NFL has launched The NFL Banderole program, which provides jerseys, flags, assurance and added items to communities beyond the country, as able-bodied as all-encompassing training for coaches and officials. It’s accessible to accouchement ages 5-14.
New Orleans Saints superstar Drew Brees is amid the abounding NFL players who accept befuddled their abutment abaft the banderole football program. All three of his sons comedy banderole football and Brees helped drillmaster their team.
“I feel like football is article that’s absolutely American,” Brees said a in account with the Wall Street Journal aftermost October. “It would be abhorrent if it goes by the wayside because bodies are abashed to comedy it because they don’t anticipate there’s a bigger option. This (flag football) is a bigger option.”
Even aerial academy football is not allowed to the trend. Over the accomplished nine years, the cardinal of aerial academy football players has alone from 1.11 actor to aloof over a actor in 2017.
While Ocean Springs is alone fielding a absolute of three accouterment teams this fall, there are eight teams accommodating in banderole football beyond two age groups, 5-6 and 7-8. Accouterment football was additionally offered for the 7-8 group, but not abundant active up to acreage alike one team.
“Our banderole affairs is growing, accepting beyond every year,” Straight said. Ocean Springs is allotment of the NFL Banderole program.
Straight is asked if she had a son of adolescence football age, would she acquiesce him to play?
“Absolutely not. I accept a grandson who is nine — and no, I would not,” she said. “I’m the one who has pushed the banderole program. These are people’s accouchement and I booty their assurance actual seriously.”
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