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As Football Participation Rates Continue Decline, Coaches Try to Improve the Sport

In an age of injury awareness, particularly in regard to concussions and the research into CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), football has become a less attractive option — especially at the youth level.

It’s a Friday morning in August, which means the spectacles of Friday night lights aren’t far away in football-frenzied Jenks. On the third floor of the Robert L. Sharp Fitness Center, located behind the north end zone of Allan Trimble Stadium, a visitor pores over a seating chart as she chooses her season tickets for the 2018 season.

The crowded bleachers won’t change, even if the sidelines have become a little less congested. Athletic Director Tony Dillingham, now in his 18th year in the position, estimated Jenks will have 80-90 kids in the football program for grades 10-12. That’s about 10-15 fewer than his first five or six years at the school. “There may have been a time, I think, when I first got here 17 years ago, we probably had close to 100 kids that were out for eighth-grade football every year,” Dillingham said. “Now, we’re probably at that 65-70 range. So that’s a pretty considerable difference from that end of it.”

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