While participation in 11-man football appears to be falling nationwide, right here in Kerr County that doesn’t seem to be the trend, at least in what local coaches are seeing.

BIG NUMBERS

When it comes to participation in high school sports, Texas leads the way nationally with more than 800,000 boys and girls playing sports of some kind. Texas has been No. 1 for much of the last two decades, and a lot of that is because of the state’s huge participation in football. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, Texas had 164,664 students play football in 2017. Numbers for 2018 and 2019 are not yet available.

However, the 2017 number was the first year-over-year gain for the sport in Texas since reaching a peak participation of 168,680 players in 2010-2011. Overall participation has fallen about 2 percent since 2010.

IT’S ALL ABOUT SAFETY

On the national scene, football participation has continued to erode, and much of it’s related to safety. A 2018 University of Washington School of Medicine nationwide study found that 61 percent of parents supported a minimum age requirement to participate in tackle football.

THAT’S NOT THE CASE HERE

Tivy, meanwhile, continues to buck the current trend of declining player participation. From 2012 to 2018, the Antlers experienced a 42 percent increase in player participation, according to numbers that Tivy athletic director David Jones provided to the Kerrville Daily Times. Jones had 130 players attend his first practice during his first season in 2012. That number had increased to 185 by 2018. He’s expecting a similar turnout when Tivy holds its first practice on Monday, based off of Tivy’s strength and conditioning camp participation numbers. 350 students attended Tivy’s six-week conditioning camp at some point this summer, and the majority of those athletes play football.

There’s many reasons for this increase in player participation. Tivy continues to make player safety a top priority, with two full-time trainers, a strict concussion protocol and a full staff of student trainers that help the players remain hydrated during practices and games.

Jones also attributes Tivy’s successful history as a chief reason for the continued high player turnout: People want to play for a winning team.

“We have been successful on and off the field,” Jones said. “Everybody loves to be part of something that’s positive.”

WHAT’S ON THE RISE

While football appears to be flat or declining, the rise of soccer has been significant across the state of Texas with a 90 percent rise in participation between 2003 and 2018. In all, more than 70,000 students (boys and girls) are playing soccer across the state.

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