Highland Park ditches tackle football due to low attendance

- Throwing, running and catching are all good. But you won't see tackles this fall --during park district football games in north suburban Highland Park.

A self-described “nervous football mom,” Sandy Greenspace said she is relieved her 10-year-old son plays flag football instead of tackle, like her teenage son does.

“We let my middle son play and I guess all the stuff that's come out lately about the concussions, my husband's a physician and it's gotten to be where it's pretty scary,” Greenspace said

While flag football is going strong, the park district had to cancel the tackle program for 5th through 8th graders, saying it was simply about numbers.

Only 11 signed up for a program that used to draw 150.

Liz McElroy, park district executive director, said parents are worried about concussions.

“As everyone knows, you can't pick up a newspaper these days without reading about what's going on with football so we've been watching the number for tackle football and for the last 3 years we've seen a trend down,” McElroy said.

The park district got brand new, lightweight helmets for kids participating in flag football to wear.

“They're going to fall down, run into each other. If they're not coordinated they might bump heads. I think it's an excellent idea,” parent Tom Yugolina said.

Participation numbers for flag football are spiking but some parents, like Scott Schultz, say they'll consider switching to tackle when their children get older.

“I do want to encourage him to play sports and this is a great team sport,” Schultz said. “As long as they play fair and don't try to kill each other then it shouldn't be that damaging.”

The park district plans to offer tackle football again next year and see if enough kids sign up.

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