(KMSP) - The number of kids signing up for youth football has been declining in recent years, and the NFL is getting worried. So now, they're teaming up with USA Football to make the game safer for kids.
Freshman Mason Fiddle and senior Justin Doeden are on the University of Minnesota Gophers golf team. Both played football as kids and gave up in junior high.
“I gave it a try one year, and that's really all I had,” Doeden said. “I kind of lost the love for the game.”
“I played through eighth grade because I broke three of my fingers right before hockey tryouts, and the year before that I broke my shoulder,” Fiddle said.
Youth football has taken some knocks over the last decade over the fear of injuries, especially concussions, some real, some perceived.
Now, USA Football, along with the NFL, are selling a revised youth game to ease parent worries and bring numbers up.
“Really, numbers are down in a lot of sports, not just football,” said Mike Grant, head football coach and activities director at Eden Prairie High School.
Grant believes there's a bigger issue than injuries and that kids are tending to focus on one, maybe two sports all year long.
“Whether it's soccer or volleyball or basketball, there's such an emphasis on playing year-round, certainly in hockey. We rarely ever have a hockey player now that plays football,” Grant said.
What USA Football hopes to introduce in the next few years at the youth levels is called Modified Tackle Football which consists of a smaller field, fewer players and rule changes to lessen the impacts.
Grant thinks that could bring up numbers, which are likely about fan base more than talent pool.
“There'll always be people to play the game, but I think they still want it to be a fabric of American life, and that's what I think they're worried about,” Grant said.