Several New Mexico football teams struggle to find players
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Declining student-athlete participation rates are hitting New Mexico high schools that are struggling to find football players to field teams.
The falling participation rates and the fact that some schools canceling their seasons because of a lack of players have observers wondering if New Mexico high school football is dying, the Santa Fe New Mexican reports .
In June, McCurdy Charter School in Espanola canceled its season after half of the 26 players were declared academically ineligible. Questa High School, which prematurely ended back-to-back seasons in 2017 and 2018 because of a lack of players, will not field a team this year.
On Wednesday, Mission Achievement and Success Charter School in Albuquerque dropped out of the New Mexico Activities Association, meaning it will not play football this season.
The New Mexico Activities Association says 11 of the 113 schools expected to play football this year will do so as independents. That means they won’t play in a district or complete in the playoffs.
Dusty Young, an NMAA associate director who oversees football, acknowledged the number of independent football teams is high, but he added that dropping football is not uncommon at smaller schools.
Young noted, though, that student-athlete participation rates have declined, regardless of the sport.
“So it’s not just football that is struggling to find participation numbers,” Young said. “It’s just that some schools are lacking in participation numbers as a whole, as far as where they were 15, 20 years ago.”
Nonetheless, New Mexico football has been at the forefront of declining participation rates. Some of that may be due to safety concerns arising from the connection between concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the neurodegenerative disease more commonly known as CTE.
“The safety issue has become so much more vocal than it was,” Los Alamos head coach Garrett Williams said. “It caused our coaches and the (National Federation of State High School Associations) to step back and look at this. I feel that our sport is as safe as it’s ever been right now, and for people to be backing out of it is concerning for me.”
Some administrators have said the head-injury concern is not the only major factor in the decline in participation. Kenny Barreras, Albuquerque Public Schools athletic director, said his district has noticed not just a decline in participation but also a drop in athletes who play more than one sport. He attributes it to the growing trend of specialization in one sport.
“Even the number of two-sport athletes has declined,” Barreras said. “That is where you see that waning participation level at a school that maybe historically had been able get by because they had more kids doing more sports. Now, you need more kids overall to fill your teams.”
Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, http://www.santafenewmexican.com