The Coupeville School District football program is going through several major changes, and interested parties are invited to attend a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 29, at the high school commons to discuss these changes and the future of the program.
Among the changes, spurred by dwindling participation and concerns over injuries, are the decision to drop middle school tackle football in exchange for flag football and the decision to leave the North Sound Conference for high school football and play an independent schedule.
The switch to flag football follows the present trend supported by the National Football League, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association and many current and former players.
Coupeville Athletic Director Willie Smith sees the switch as a positive rather than a setback.
“The beauty of flag football is that we can get all kids out, regardless of size, ability or gender,” he said. “It takes the stigma of contact and pigeon-holing kids into positions based on size or skill level. Each kid gets an opportunity to play every position: quarterback, receiver, lineman, etc.”
Flag football, which will start next fall, will be open to boys and girls grades three through eight.
“It is a great lead-up game to tackle football, and kids get to learn football without worrying about getting tackled or put in a position just because they are big or small,” Smith said.
The move to an independent schedule for the high school team is to ensure the Wolves will face teams of similar talent and numbers, which, in turn, should cut down the number of injuries.
“At Coupeville High School, we have seen a dramatic decline of participation over the past seven to eight years,” Smith said. “While some of this can be attributed to the concussion element, I believe it is also due to the lack of a consistent football coaching staff during that time.”
The Wolves have had five head coaches since 2009. This turnover has led to “an uncertainty, apathy and non-interest in the program,” according to Smith.
With low numbers and a young returning team, going to an independent schedule is the safe thing to do, and the “safety of our kids is paramount,” Smith said.
The 2019 schedule is complete and features teams from smaller schools or new programs or those going through a decline in participation like Coupeville.
It is not “an easy schedule,” Smith noted, and “it will require our kids to work in the offseason,” but it will “provide our kids with an opportunity to be successful each and every game.”
Head injuries are one reason participation numbers in football are dropping throughout the country, so, with help from the Coupeville Booster Club, Coupeville High School has purchased Guardian Caps for its players. These shells go over the helmet in practice and have shown to reduce concussions. These do not guarantee total protection from injuries, but do offer added protection, especially when the head hits the ground, according to Smith.
Smith will be joined at the meeting by Coupeville head coach Marcus Carr and his staff, and they will answer questions and discuss their own training and how they teach tackling and blocking techniques that reduce head injuries.
“Coach Carr and I want our community to come to meet him and his staff, learn more about them as community members and learn about their commitment level, philosophies and coaching methods,” Smith said.