Veteran high school football coaches offer their thoughts on falling participation

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Saturday, September 14, 2019 | 3:45 PM


WORDS OF WISDOM

Veteran coaches discuss the issue of falling participation numbers in high school football:

George Novak

14th winningest coach in state history with six WPIAL titles at Woodland Hills

• “I think there are more sports programs to choose from. There is more specialization in one sport with practices year-round. There is an increased awareness of the possibility of head and spinal injuries.”

• “During my 30 years, the drop in the number of players was directly proportional to the drop in enrollment. We still had good participation.”

Tom Nola

Won six WPIAL titles and four straight PIAA championships at Clairton

• “Parents are getting more information regarding concussions and other injuries that happen in football and, as a result, not wanting their kids to participate. … (But) there are a lot more rules and regulations for coaches and medical professionals that offset the worries of parents.”

• “During my career, I didn’t notice that big of a change because it was a football town. … Running a quality program still causes students and parents to want to be involved. Also, a program with strong community traditions draws a lot of participation.”

Jim Render

Spent 40 years at Upper St. Clair and is the winningest coach in WPIAL history with 406 victories

• “I am not sure it is really decreasing in towns where football has always been important. Aliquippa, McKeesport, Woodland Hills, Steubenville, North Allegheny and now Penn Hills and Pine-Richland do not seem to be having any problems.”

• “Even with all the media attention given to concussion issues, the quality of football continues to be outstanding. Why is football given so much attention when knee injuries and concussions in women’s sports are rising so rapidly? I am not worried about football. The product is still excellent in my opinion.”

Jeff Metheny

Won 205 games in 25 seasons at Bethel Park

• “It changed when kids quit playing two sports. You went from one to another and that was just common. Now, a two-sport athlete is rare and a three-sport athlete is unheard of.”

• “I think the college and pro teams should be more involved. Promote football, all the good things, work ethic, leadership, teamwork, friendship, grit. So many kids’ (lives have been improved) because of sports, coaches and the lifelong relationships. They’ve made more than just section championships. It’s a lifestyle.”

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