Cloudland junior high football a no-go for 2018: Lunsford weighs in on possible causes of low participation

Published 2:36 pm Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Due to low participation, Cloudland will not have a junior high team in 2018.

And not having a middle school program can be worrisome for a high school coach.

“It is very important,” said Cloudland head high school coach Mike Lunsford.  “The kids need to be practicing. These two or three weeks now are the most important of the year. Kids need to be getting practice. We just don’t have enough.”

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“It’s nobody’s fault,” added Lunsford. “It’s not the coach’s fault. We have a really small eighth-grade class. I don’t think there is more than 37 in it. Of those 37, I think only 15 are boys. We are probably getting the same percentage that we have always got from that class. The classes that worry me are the ones under that.”

Lunsford went on to talk about what he feels are the things that could be causing low turnout in youth football players, pointing to negative publicity that football has gotten over the past few years as the possible culprit.

“Football has been attacked from a lot of different angles,” said Lunsford. “You hear a lot of negative stuff about it. I played football my whole life, and  I never received a significant injury playing football. Now, I have played basketball and I have torn out my knee. I have torn out my ankle. I have had three knee surgeries. I have had two ankle surgeries. I’m not saying basketball is worse. I got a concussion in basketball. I stole the ball and that is the last thing that I remember to this day.”

Lunsford continued to say that injuries in athletics are not just special to football and that injuries, such as concussions, occur in every sport.

“Injuries happen and that is a part of the game,” said Lunsford. “Concussions happen in every sport. I had two concussions. One was during basketball and one I got hit by a baseball stealing second base.”

In Lunsford’s opinion, the positives of football outweigh the negatives.

“If you are a parent, it scares you when you hear those things, the negative publicity,” said Lunsford. “But there are many positives to the game of football. I always tell my kids that the best thing about football is that it is the ultimate team sport. For anybody to get things done, everybody has to do things well. You want to know the worst thing about it, it’s the same thing. It is the ultimate team sport. If everybody doesn’t do their job, then you get killed and you look bad.

“You learn hard work and you learn dedication. You get so many different things out of it,” added Lunsford.

This will not be the first time that Cloudland hasn’t had a junior high program, said Lunsford.

“When I first came here, we didn’t have a junior high program,” said Lunsford, who has been coaching for roughly 34 years. “We played eight-man one year, and one of the kid’s grandpas coached it. The first 10-0 team here in 1991, I suppose, we had 25 players and eight of those were eighth-graders because that is all that we could get to come out for junior high. It is going to fluctuate.”