Youth football participation drops nationally, locally - Dallas News |

Youth football participation drops nationally, locally

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A new report from ESPN shows that fewer kids are taking part in Pop Warner's youth football program, which is the largest youth football program in the country.  

Patrick Johnson, President of the North Texas Pop Warner League, says that report is accurate, and he's seen a significant drop in participation. He says that the growing costs are driving many parents away.

"You're looking at, one kid, $300 to $500," said Johnson. And those costs just cover basic gear.

Johnson says Pop Warner is hoping to work with sponsors and schools to help get children back into the league and make it affordable.

But mother Kathleen Cory says it wasn't the expenses that caused her to pull her 9-year-old son out of youth football after one season.

"In games, they would get stickers on their helmets for accomplishments during the games for specific things," she said. "Like pancaking. Pancaking meant you tackled someone so hard that you just flopped them over on their back. You hit them hard and you knocked them down."

Cory also says she was disturbed by aggression encouraged by coaches.

Johnson says that in his league, however, their kids are taught how to play safely.

"We do try to make sure there's no head-to-head contact," said Johnson. "That's going back to the basic fundamentals of football."

Cory decided that football was not the sport for her son, and opted for soccer, basketball, and track. 

Her now 12-year-old plays all three sports.

"The reason we want our kids in sports is to have physical fitness, to work with the team and to really be able to have self-confidence," she said. "And there is other sports that can do it."  

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