SPOKANE, Wash.— The Spokane Youth Sports Association set up shop more than 50 years ago with tackle football as the very first sport offered. This year for the first time they will discontinue tackle football. SYSA will instead opt for flag football leagues for all age groups.
SYSA Sports Coordinator Glen Reser said the decision came from declining interest in tackle football from participating families.
“Over the last several years, we’ve seen our numbers decrease at a fairly steady rate,” Reser said. “This year, we just made the decision to eliminate the program. The numbers just haven’t been there.”
Concern had grown over injuries and brain trauma that happens when players take hard hits on the field. Earlier this month, a study from Boston University showed high prevalence of Chronic Traumatic Encephalapthy (CTE) in former NFL players. Across the nation, debate and research is being conducted to see when–or perhaps if–it’s a good idea for kids to play tackle football.
Reser said he has heard from local parents concerned with their kids tackling.
“You know, what you see on the national media, with the movie Concussion that came out, a lot of people were concerned,” said Reser.
Tackle football is an American staple at this point. Other recreational leagues and schools in the area will continue to offer the sport. Reser says SYSA is not taking a stand on the issue at large. They said they want to offer this as an alternative for kids and parents.
“You’re still learning the game of football,” Reser said. “You’re learning how to run a route, throw a pass, run plays. It’s just another option.”
With decreased risk of injury also came decreased insurance prices. Reser said insurance for flag football players is about half the cost of insurance for tackle football players.
Spokane Youth Sports Association has open enrollment now for the flag football league this fall. It’s open to youth of all ages.
After this story initially aired Monday, we received a call from SYSA executive director Philip Helean.
He said they failed to mention in their initial interview– that interest in their tackle football program declined after the YMCA ended a partnership with them last year.
A spokesperson for YMCA confirmed the two organizations ended their partnership, after phasing out tackle football over the course of two years.
She said they still view SYSA as a great community organization and hoped there was no “bad blood” between them.
YMCA still operates a tackle football program, but noted all their coaches are certified in “heads up style” tackling by USA Football. This approach may reduce the risk of concussion.