Pitchin' with Pritch: Participation numbers a concern

The 2018 football season ended for the Perkins County Plainsmen in Hemingford last Friday night. The season ending game was not a surprise. The score made no difference because the Plainsmen were not eligible for the playoffs because the school’s enrollment of boys was over the limit for schools to play eight-man football and be able to qualify for the playoffs. 

The irony of the entire season was the district had too many boys to qualify for the playoffs, but had to forfeit one game because they didn’t have enough players to play the game, and for most of the season only had 10 boys or so suited up for the games. 

The season started with less than 20 players and injuries and other issues caused the low numbers. PCS offers multiple opportunities in each season for students to participate and that is a good thing I think for the students of the district. 

Students have a choice to participate or they have a choice to not participate and that is why the activities are called extra-curricular. 

When you talk to coaches or administrators from other area towns, they all tell you that their numbers are lower than past years. Towns are losing population and that is just a fact you have to live with if you live out-state. 

So how does a school district work this situation out? PCS took a look a few years back and moved to eight-man football. Because their numbers were lower they still qualified to be eligible for the football playoffs. 

This year might just be an anomaly and will correct itself in years to come. This year I think could have been avoided concerning the squad numbers because cross-country and football accounted for somewhere around 30-35 boys and the boy enrollment is somewhere in the mid 60s. 

So there are 30 other boys or so who if they wanted to could have joined the football team and probably helped in all kind of ways. On the other side of the activities pictures, the girls of PCS are faced with the situation of just not having a lot of girls in school. You are not going to have lots of numbers out for an activity if there is a lack of bodies enrolled. It still takes some numbers to make things work really well in athletics.

There isn’t a real easy answer to this situation. I have heard a number of reasons put forth but I struggle with the validity of some of them. I realize some boys have no desire to play football and that is fine. I also know that in my coaching career I had players on my basketball squad who told me basketball was not their favorite sport but they played because they knew there were teammates who went out for football who didn’t really like football but realized that the teams needed everyone who was capable of playing to be out and participating so that the teams had a chance to be successful. 

Some explanations stated a player didn’t go out because they didn’t like the coach or we had too much turnover of coaches, or they couldn’t play a certain position. I don’t really buy into that if it really was a reason for a person not participating in a activity. 

I was lucky in high school because I had  great people who were my coaches. Their influence on me is why I chose to be a coach. In college I didn’t really care for a couple of the coaches but I liked the game more than I disliked being around the coaches. 

I did, however, learn a bunch from those coaches. I knew exactly what I did not want to do in my coaching career from having to go through it every day with them. They did help me.

I hope our numbers will be up next year. I hope our young coach doesn’t get discouraged because I think he is very capable of turning out a good product, and with that my soapbox goes into retirement for awhile.

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