In the larger Denver metropolitan area, the Broncos are the kings. While the state has a diverse sporting culture and robust outdoors passion fueled by the area’s surrounding mountains. Right in the midst of those foothills sits Nederland, a small town that has fostered a traditional eight-man football team and also introduced the first female football coach in Colorado history just a year ago.
Not any longer.
As reported by Denver Fox affiliate KDVR, Nederland school leadership decided to eliminate its 8-man football program and offer varsity soccer instead. The decision means that the school will be getting rid of a sport where eight players must be on the field at a time for one where 11 players have to be on the field at any given time.
“We are dedicated to doing what is best for the students at our schools. We listened to the feedback received from students, their families and the community,” Principal Carrie Yantzer said in a statement about the move released to the media. “Given the strong support and the feeder programs already present in the community, we feel that there is enough support behind soccer to make it sustainable.”
In a sense, Nederland’s decision is a fascinating point on the continuum between soccer’s rise in popularity and football’s fall, at least relatively speaking. There is no question that football remains America’s most popular televised sport, and it leads in participation among young males as well.
Still, where football once was dominant, other sports continue to cut into its market, as we’ve now seen with Nederland. Just as the grassroots “feeder programs” mentioned by Yantzer are critical, so is the rise of media awareness and availability of both American and European top-flight soccer.
Put it all together, and it’s no longer such a mystery why programs like Nederland are moving on … even when the numbers might not seem to line up at first blush.