The continued rise in awareness and concern about the health risks of tackle football have brought a number of traditional football strongholds to the brink of a conversion. Now one has crossed over, at least at the middle school level.
As reported by the Chicago Tribune, all the middle schools in the Naperville area have agreed to eliminate tackle football from their interscholastic athletic offerings, replacing it instead with flag football.
While the decisions to shift the style of football may have been sparked by additional health concerns, the influence isn’t as direct as some might believe; according to authorities from both the Indian Prairie and Naperville School District, the decision to adjust to flag football was inspired by rapid declines in participation, which was making it hard for some schools to field a full team.
“We have recognized continued decreased participation in this activity for several consecutive seasons and, as a result, teams at several of our schools have had to forfeit games due to not having enough players to safely field a team,” principals from the two districts wrote in a statement.
While flag football does present a number of advantages in terms of safety and scale, the district-wide shift does raise some logistical issues for Naperville and Indian Prairie schools: because only those two districts have made the switch from tackle to flag in their greater metropolitan area, their pool of possible opponents is largely limited to the 12 schools that comprise the two districts. That will make for significant overlap in terms of competitive teams, though it isn’t likely to develop any sense of additional enmity.