Decreasing in size: Football

Senior Nathaniel Marquez, wide receiver, is tackled after making an interception. Interactive version here: Credit: Abril Pereznegron

By Abril Pereznegron ’18

Taking a closer look at the numbers of Pritzker’s football players, a decline has been noted. In the year of 2013, 11.2% of the male population was part of the football team; however, we see a decline in the following year. Only 7.4% of male students were football athletes during the 2014 season.

The impact of injuries may have been a inevitable reason why students have showed less interest in the game. “They [the injuries] didn’t keep me from playing, but they kept me from playing to my full potential,” stated senior Austin Molina, who has been playing football for over four years.

Football assistant coach–also junior and senior IB/AP Biology teacher– Chris Duncan confirmed seeing a decline of participation with the football team. He acknowledges the parental decisions that are part of the team, but also notes the hysteria that comes along with it.

The risks of injuries that the game brings factors a lot for both parents and students. Duncan understands the “fear around what the repercussions are for playing the game.” Having played in high school and college himself, he “experienced a lot of the same things.”

Indeed, “I got knocked out a couple of times,” he stated. However, being able to talk about his own experience as a football player, Duncan noted the level of seriousness in high school: “I don’t think the level of fear in a high school game is warranted.”

Similarly, J.R. Niklis, former NFL player and high school football coach at Neuqua Valley, believes that the game outweighs the injuries in high school football.

Abriel Cortez, junior football athlete, was recently injured, which expressed a challenge for the team due to the injuries; “Because there were so many injuries, the team struggled in having enough men on the field.” Though, “the amount of discipline that it takes confronting very real fears,” as Duncan stated, allows athletes to learn about discipline, which is a benefit because fear is inevitable.

Athletes and coaches acknowledge the critical safety needed for the game despite the many benefits that go in playing football, such as overcoming fears on the field.

On a broader scope, we see similar data to that of Pritzker. “Participation in football programs at 87 suburban high schools has dropped 18.7%,” as displayed in the Daily Herald/Chicago Sun-Times.

When explaining the importance of football for high school students despite the downfalls of football Duncan expressed: “When you are standing ten yards across someone and being able to overcome that[…] I hate to see that go to waste.”