On The Fence

Bobby Leach "The Rooster" | 1/20/2016, 5:18 p.m.
Should high school football be banned from future competition? Believe it or not, that question is among the most popular ...
Bobby Leach

Should high school football be banned from future competition? Believe it or not, that question is among the most popular posed to me when idle chat takes over whatever it is I am doing at the moment. Ten years ago I would have scoffed at the idea largely because I grew up with the sport and the effect on my personality due to my passion for the game has been something I have always been proud of. In my opinion, there is no game that better prepares you for the game of life.

Football is the ultimate team sport that requires every member to contribute or face losing as a team. It only takes one small insignificant mistake to erase a memorable play and like herding cats, it can be a pretty tough challenge to get eleven guys on the field to work in unison towards a common goal. I suppose there is the physical and mental challenges a season can exert on a young man that for me personally have conditioned me to endure similar circumstances in the workplace. All in all, the game has helped shape me which is why I always stand to defend it but I will say that the concussion issue has me second guessing myself.

As we all learn more about concussions and their long term effect on people, the facts have given me pause to consider is the game really worth the risk? Knowing what society knows now about concussions, I am convinced my parents would have prevented me from playing especially at the youth level. I am of the opinion that kids under high school age should rethink their participation of tackle football as a youth sport. I think you can teach kids the game in a flag football environment which still poses some risk but greatly reduced risks given the limitation of contact.

When a right answer seems impossible, I normally error on the side of caution. With school districts facing tightened budgets and contact sports under increasing scrutiny, when do school boards across the nation begin pulling the plug on such sporting activities? I would imagine the insurance premium alone will plummet with contact sports being eliminated from schools but there will be an expense many in this debate haven’t addressed. If football goes the way of the vinyl record, what will fill the void for young people who find their Friday nights free?

The entire debate may be delicate but should continue in full earnest for the benefit and safety of all participants. The IHSA has been aggressive in creating a safer environment for statewide athletes and honestly I think they have been fantastic in taking a leadership role in the discussion. If the game continues it will be because of responsible leadership and practical changes made to the rules that keep contact sports as safe as possible for participants. We would love to hear your thoughts!