Highland Park youth tackle football program canceled due to low registration

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The Highland Park Park District's youth tackle football program has taken its own hit. Dating back to the 1970's, it was canceled his year due to low registration numbers. (WLS)

The Highland Park District's youth tackle football program has taken its own hit. Dating back to the 1970's, it was canceled his year due to low registration numbers.

At its peak, officials said the program for fifth through eighth graders had more than 150 participants. But that number fell to 54 in 2015 and 33 in 2016. This year only 11 kids were signed up, so a decision was made to nix the program.

At the same time, the Park District said there's an increase in participation in youth flag football and other sports, including baseball. Park District officials said it appears parents are worried about head injuries.

"As the Park District, it's our responsibility to respond to the needs of the residents. And if residents say, you know what, we're done with tackle football, then we will have other options for them such as our flag football program, which has really escalated in attendance," said Liza McElroy, executive director of the Park District of Highland Park.

"My first reaction was kind of sad. I played in the program as a kid. But we trust our staff, and when our staff said this is a better way to go, then we followed their direction, really," said Brian Kaplan, Park Board Commissioner.

The Park District in Highland Park has added some extra safety equipment to its flag football program, including soft helmets that are designed to absorb incidental contact.

"If there is a whack to the head or something, it's just one additional layer of safety," McElroy said.

Officials said the tackle football program is not canceled permanently; if enough kids sign up next year they'll consider re-opening the program.

Related Topics:
sportsfootballchildrenteenagersHighland Park
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