Fears surrounding Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and the degenerative brain disease found in athletes suffering concussions has impacted nationwide participation at all levels in the sport of football and may be affecting the falling numbers of participants in the Lincoln Midget Football League.
Coupled with the rise in numbers towards other club sports, Lincoln Midget Football participation is down close to 20% over the past three years, according to league officials.
Lincoln Executive Club Football Director Kent Wolfe and General Manager Robb Linafelter addressed the issue and the numbers earlier this month in their annual year-end presentation to their sponsor and members of the Executive Club.
“A few years ago, we used to have over a 1,000 kids playing Midget Football in Lincoln,” said Wolfe, who is in his 21st season with Executive Club Football. “This year we were down to around 850 kids out for football.”
Overall, there are eight sponsors for the five levels of participation in Midget Football in Lincoln; Classes A, B, C, D and Rookie. In addition to Executive Club, the other sponsors are Fire Fighters, Police, Leon's, Elks, Union Bank, Neemann and Sons and Manzitto Brothers.
The falling numbers did not affect the play and enthusiasm for Executive Club Football, the speakers said.
“We had a great year for what we’ve been able to accomplish,” said Wolfe, whose Class A Division team competed for the title against Manzitto Bros., losing 20-7 to the former Assurity Life program. “We didn’t have the biggest kids this year. Our biggest kid was 180 pounds. But, they were very coachable kids and they wanted to win. We were very good at reading defenses and using audibles. Part of our coaching is teaching kids to think football. The difference we can make as coaches is what makes us want to work with these kids.”
Linafelter echoed Wolfe’s sentiments about the effect on kids with good coaching.
“There’s not a better coach out there on that field than Kent Wolfe,” said Linafelter, who is in his fourth year as GM and 15th year coaching. “He’s making the kids better people. They are a testament to what Kent’s coaching can do.”
Wolfe and Linafelter also complimented the effects of what game film and watching video can towards improving the competition.
“Overall, the league is getting more competitive, especially at the A level,” Wolfe said. “Part of it may be due to Hudl and the film being provided to the kids.”