St. Joseph's High School boasts a proud 90-year tradition of high school football, one that in its heyday featured games with Pittsfield High School that brought the city out to the gridiron (Brian Sullivan story, May 19). Dwindling numbers have brought that history to an end, with about a dozen players joining a co-op program at Drury High School in North Adams. This could be the direction of high school football in the Berkshires as a whole.
These are challenging times for interscholastic athletic teams, which not only lose students to part-time jobs, which is not a new issue, but also must compete with the online activities of generally more sedentary teenagers. Football teams need large numbers of players, and in Berkshire high schools they share a stagnant or diminishing student pool with cross-country, soccer and increasingly popular lacrosse (Eagle, May 19).
The alarming incidents of head injuries in football also works against the sport. Most of the attention is at the NFL level, but a study by the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council concluded last year that high school football has the highest number of concussions at the interscholastic level and by a substantial margin over other sports. High schools take this seriously and there are protocols to follow when players suffer concussions, but this reality must give pause to parents.
While the former St. Joseph's players who gathered last week at the Monday Morning Quarterback Club's annual Pittsfield Hall of Fame dinner expressed disappointment in the program's end, they were in general not surprised and understood the decision. In the years ahead, more county high school football players may feel the same as they look back at their school's glory days.