Clark County Youth Football: This is where it begins for local gridders

Before they took part in the NFL, or college, or the Friday Night Lights of high school football, most players first participated in football for a local youth league.
For many Clark County child gridders, it means participating in the Clark County Youth Football League each fall.
CCYF began 2016 league play for second through eighth graders during Labor Day weekend, with games to run through the end of October. CCYF also stages flag football for kindergarten through second grade in the fall, and all ages through eighth grade in the spring.
The health of CCYF has never been better, says president Terry Hyde. He reports that about 1,500 children registered for tackle and flag football this fall, an increase over 2015 (Hyde didn’t know the exact percentage increase.)
“I would say there was a period two or three years ago when our numbers were flat. But we’re good now,” Hyde said.
With head injuries and concussions seemingly a part of daily sports discussions, there is a prevailing thought nationally that youth football numbers would begin to shrink. Numbers are mixed. USA Football announced earlier this year that it had 2.169 million participants in youth football in 2015, an increase of 41,000 from 2014. But compared to five years ago, numbers are down. In 2010, USA Football reported nearly 3 million participants in youth football.
Hyde says CCYF’s numbers have never been down in tackle football, and he believes it is due in part to the organization’s proactive stance to teaching proper “heads-up” technique to its players, educating parents, as well as properly staffing games with trainers.
“The leagues that have their old daddy ballers, 1940s approach to the game, those leagues are going down. It’s affecting the people who are not getting on board that the game has changed. You have to change,” said Hyde, also head football coach at Evergreen High School.
Hyde said it’s paramount to go beyond teaching football coaches about head injuries. CCYF talks to its players about being honest with their coaches and parents about head-related injuries. It also educates parents about watching their child and looking for personality changes.
“The most important piece to this is telling the kid, you have a lot of athletics ahead of you. If you miss a week, it’s OK,” Hyde said.
Hyde believes, as he calls them “the football haters of the world,” are cherry picking head injury statistics to put a bright light on his sport. But what has come out of it has been good for all sports, Hyde says.
“What people have learned about head injuries in youth sports is that it’s common in all sports. All our games are safer to play, because people are more aware of the symptoms, and kids are being taken care of,” Hyde said.
There is some talk that flag football numbers will begin to rise in years to come because of head injuries. Hyde doesn’t believe that, saying head injuries can occur in flag just like tackle because “when your head hits the ground, you have the same injury in flag.”
There are some aspects of flag football that are beneficial to learning the game, Hyde says, such as learning pass routes, running in space and coverage techniques.
“There’s no substitute for tackle football. I think flag helps kids understand the sport of football, but in my opinion, doesn’t give a great benefit to tackle,” Hyde said.
For the first time in 12 years, CCYF had to raise its league registration fee for tackle to $225, from $215. The price hike was due to increased rental fees for fields charged by local schools, Hyde said.
Everything is provided for players except for a practice jersey and a pair of cleats. CCYF provides helmets, for safety reasons.
“I know the history of every helmet that comes out of our warehouse,” Hyde said.

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