WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. -- Youth football league practices are starting to get underway. As awareness grows about concussions and the harm they cause, enrollment numbers at area youth leagues are going down.
"I love football, so I'm concerned about where it's going in the future," says Dave Turton. "I'm actually worried about where football is going to be ten, twenty years from now."
What has Turton worried are the lower enrollment numbers several youth football teams are seeing across Western New York. Turton coaches for Williamsville Junior Football. While he says Williamsville Junior Football has seen a slight increase in enrollment, with 190 kids signed up for football and cheer this year, he says it seems to be the exception rather than the rule.
“Everyone else in our league, it seems to be down. I actually talked to another commissioner today, and he's threatening to fold one of his teams because he doesn't have enough kids. So numbers across the league have been very down," says Turton.
He points to one reason.
"It's the parents’ awareness of concussions. They're a little iffy about their kids playing football. Our peewees, when I coached a peewee team back five years ago, we had two teams of twenty kids on a team. Now, I think we have 15 kids on our peewee team, and I think the newer parents are worried. And we're going to see a decrease, I think, every few years now," says Turton.
Turton's league requires all coaches to be U.S.A. Football certified, which means they have to be trained in, and teach, Heads Up tackling to prevent concussions.
He says in his five years of coaching that he has never had a player get a concussion. But this year, trainers will be on the sidelines at every game just in case.
"Any time there is a child hurt on the field, that trainer is going to come out and evaluate them, and he or she is going to give us the heads up if he can come back on the field or not to play," says Turton.
The Clarence Youth Football & Cheer Association also tells us enrollment is down this year due to injuries and concussion awareness.