Will Millennials Kill Football?

imageSome indicators seem to say yes. Perhaps someone will call an audible. But, there are a lot of Millenial parents that are thinking hard about letting their kids sacrifice their future by playing football.

Even President Obama chimed in by saying that if he had a son he think twice before letting him play.

“I’m a big football fan, but I have to tell you if I had a son, I’d have to think long and hard before I let him play football,”
~ President Barrack Obama

What’s at Risk?

$9.5 Billion Dollars!

That’s just at the NFL level. There is also a lot of money at risk for colleges, high schools and youth football programs.

All of these are important revenue streams for the local communities. They all will be considered in the calculus of football. They will all be factors in how hard the industry will fight to keep the gravy train rolling. Expect a media storm!

How can Technology help?

  • Accelerometers in Helmets – Sensors that measure the physics of an impact can help determine what happened. The problem here is … it occurs AFTER the impact.
  • Smarter and Softer fields – The turf of today is much better that the AstroTurf of the 70’s. The materials and more important the underlying surfaces have become much more forgiving.
  • Better pads with advanced materials and better ergonomics designed to protect both the player wearing the gear and the player on the other side of the impact.

Can you imagine?

With sensors in helmets and on the fields there will likely be a lot of sideline coaches to “help” the coaches on the field. While this isn’t all a bad thing … there will be times where it may become overbearing, intrusive and ruinous to the intent of the game.

  • A helicopter parent with a wireless linkup to the sensor on their kids helmet. 
    • Imagine them shouting from the sidelines because their kids sensor went off on their smart phone.
    • Or perhaps … they’ll just text the coach.

Maybe we’ll see scoreboards that indicate the status of each player. I’m sure there would be advocates on both sides of this line of thinking. The Safety Advocates and the Game Strategy folks could have a field day with these statistics.

imageThis same technology could be used to light up a coaches “dashboard” on their clipboard.

Of course, this could have negative effects as knowing these stats might just make them a target (see the point about about Safety vs. Game Strategy).

Will the industry call an Audible?

We’ll see. I expect them to put on an all out blitz.

I give credit to the football industry for spending the time and effort to create better safety equipment and provide improved monitoring options. Of course, this is mainly about self-preservation. They see their pipeline of future players shriveling up at a rapid pace.

Change needs to come to football to insure it can survive. The football machine is making on-the-field adjustments.

Will Millenial parents come around? Only time will tell.

What’s Next?

Expect to see a lot more advertisements and conversations about the “safety” of football. Why? Because there is a HUGE industry to protect. Certainly from the top with a multi-billion dollar pro teams and the equally huge financial impact and effects of college football. Even at the local level there is a lot of revenue and community pride in supporting the local teams.

imageWhat will you do if you can’t go out to see the Friday Night Lights?

  • What will communities rally around next?
  • Will the industry adapt? Will we?
  • Will parents of future generations?

What do you think?

  • Would you let your kid play football?
  • Under what conditions?
  • What changes would you need to see?

Full Disclosure: I played football for many years. Starting in Pop Warner when I was in 4th or 5th grade and playing into high school. It’s a great sport and I would like to see it continue. Changes will need to come in order for football to have a future.


karl schulmeister said…
We did not let our kids try out for organized football, not so much because of the brain injury thing, which is very real, but more because of the other mounting evidence of the harm caused to developing joints ( cartilage, once damaged does not heal) we encouraged soccer and swimming (baseball being too boring to play or watch), and snowboarding, but not football. Its not a healthy sport physically or mentally (too many "kill the carrier" mentality)
Dan Arildson said…
No football for my kids either. Like Karl I don't want to see my kids' knees, shoulders, ankles, etc. destroyed at a young age. Docs can stitch the injury back together but you are never the same afterwards. The concussion risk alone is enough to keep me from allowing my kids to play football.

We are already seeing the advertising begin about the safety of football. USA Football's "Heads Up Football" advertisements are playing during NFL games. Former NFL coach John Madden has criticized the program for being too short (requires only 90 minutes of training to be certified) and he doesn't believe young kids should be doing tackling drills - http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/08/05/john-madden-doesnt-believe-in-the-heads-up-football-program/ .