ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Friday night lights at high schools across New Mexico may be starting to dim as teams are struggling to find athletes. New Mexico Activities Association says that there has been a steady decrease in participation each year since 2014.
Just this June, McCurdy Charter School in Espanola canceled its season after half the players were declared academically ineligible. Questa High School also won’t have a team this year due to lack of players.
While the NMAA could not say what the exact reason is for the drop-off, parents said they have an idea.
“My most major thing is the injuries and stuff like that,” parent Talena Romero said. “I had a cousin playing for the Cardinals out in Las Vegas, New Mexico, and he had got a lot of injuries to his head and stuff. Later on in life, he got brain cancer and passed away.”
In five years, there are around 700 fewer kids playing high school football. The NMAA figures show all high school sports are down, but football is the highest decrease at 29 percent less over the last five years.
While participation in football is decreasing at high schools statewide, the New Mexico Flag Football League reports a 30 percent increase in participation in just the past year.
“The main thing that it comes down to often is the head injuries,” Joseph Prestwich, owner of the New Mexico Flag Football League, said. “Parents are scared of concussions and scared of their child getting hit in the head, and they are going to flag football instead of tackle for that reason.”
While some say the decrease in traditional football is due to injuries, others believe it is because of children having more extracurricular options.
The NMAA says 11 of the 113 schools expected to play football this year will do so as independents, meaning they can not play in a district or the playoffs.