ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The Boys and Girls Club of Alaska is ending its youth football program. CEO Alana Humphrey said the program was not sustainable with the lack of kids participating over the past seven years.
"This year, and we've looked at it every single year and kept pushing forward, this year, unfortunately, we have just reached the point that we can't field enough teams to make the league play really work," Humphrey said during a phone interview.
The Boys and Girls Club had to cancel the U10 division during the most recent season because they did not have enough players to field teams.
BGCA had just over 100 kids in its youth program this year and Humphrey said at the height of the program, there were close to 500.
The only other youth football program in the area is Pop Warner, which divides teams up by size, rather than specific age. While BGCA doesn't have a weight limit, it did designate that children who were 161 pounds and over were only offensive linemen in the U10 division. In the U12 divison, the same rule applied for children 186 pounds and over. For the U14 division, players over 211 lbs. were restricted to being offensive linemen.
Alaska South Central Pop Warner president Stan Brown told Channel 2 he and his staff are working to see if they can find a fit that will allow kids who participated in BGCA's program to find a home with Pop Warner.
"Our heaviest weight goes up to 180," Brown said. "If there are kids that are over 180, that's where we need to get together with the board and try to figure out if there's a way that we can accommodate them. We'd like to see all these kids on the field."
Brown said Pop Warner saw a decline in football participation numbers four or five years ago, but for the past two years, they've been holding pretty steady with participation numbers.
Brown says this drop in participation is happening nationwide, especially with concern about concussions and head injuries within football.
In order to make the game safer, Brown and his staff have been trained by USA Football and its Heads Up program, which teaches tackling and playing the game that avoids and penalizes head-to-head contact.
Brown says he and his board will continue to meet and will hopefully be able to come to a decision that allows every youth football player to take the field for the 2020 season.
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