In a time when student athletes have multiple demands on their time, Round Valley High School was having trouble getting kids to consistently make it out to football practice.
So rather than start a season and have to quit mid-year as participation waned, Round Valley Unified School District Superintendent Mike Gorman made the difficult decision this year to cancel football season completely.
“We don’t have the bodies. That’s the bottom line,” he said.
With a school enrollment of less than 100 students overall, fielding a full football squad — even if just for 8-man play — was an insurmountable challenge.
Round Valley, in the little town of Covelo (population 1,255) in Mendocino County, is pretty rural and travel demands on the team are high. Having athletes committed to the team was essential to be able to compete, Gorman said.
Last year, the team went 1-8 overall, and some days there weren’t enough players when they were getting on the bus to head to the game.
“It’s sad because I wanted to get the kids involved,” said Gorman, who is also the high school’s athletic director and bus driver for the football team. “We’d show up at away games and have eight kids. Sometimes we had to pull kids out of bed to get them out to games.”
But there may be hope.
A new community youth football program in the area has about 50 kids enrolled, Gorman said.
“I think that’s going to be a good catalyst for the high school,” he said.
The other NCL III high school teams in the Coastal Mountain Conference — Anderson Valley, Geyserville, Laytonville, Mendocino, Point Arena and Potter Valley — will enjoy a bye week on the days that had been scheduled for games against Round Valley this season.
Gorman suspects a number of reasons behind the decline of football interest, including increasing school and community demands, the extra time commitment for football and possibly concerns about concussions.
Head injuries and new rules about how to treat potential concussions made it difficult to field full teams last year, he said.
While the Mustangs might be able to start a game with a dozen uniformed players, if a kid “got his bell rung,” Gorman said, he’d have to sit out the rest of the game — and a minimum of seven days for observation, ruling out the next game as well.
“We’d start every game with 12 players, but every game ended with eight. We had to cancel the last one because we didn’t have enough,” he said.
Gorman said the school hopes to come up with a new strategy next year to revive the football program.
“But for now we have a good varsity volleyball team,” he said. “We’ll focus on that.”
You can reach Lori A. Carter at 521-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @loriacarter.