The combined Church Hill-Mount Carmel-Surgoinsville Parks and Recreation League offers several sports including football for boys beginning at age 6 and continuing until they’re eligible for middle school football.
Recreation director Timmy Wilson told the Church Hill Board of Mayor and Aldermen Tuesday that the city’s current liability insurance provider won’t cover youth football this year, but he has received a quote from another provider for $2,860 for the year.
Liability for every other sport combined will cost $10,268, putting the overall insurance cost including football at almost $13,200.
That cost is divided among the three cities, with Mount Carmel and Church Hill paying 40 percent each and Surgoinsville paying 20 percent.
Church Hill Mayor Dennis Deal suggested that being dropped by the insurance provider might be an indication of the direction youth football is headed.
“If our insurer will no longer insure, ain’t that telling us something about that particular sport?”
“In my opinion, yes,” Wilson replied.
“What’s it telling us?” Deal asked.
“In my opinion, there won’t be any youth football in 10 years, period. I think that’s where the sport of football is headed,” said Wilson.
Wilson noted that with recent media attention on football concussions and other injuries, communities in other parts of the country have started dialogues about ending youth football.
Although that hasn’t been suggested in east Hawkins County, youth football participation in the three-city recreation league has been down. Last year there weren’t enough players to have a league for ages 6-8, and there were only enough players for the older age group to have three teams.
Alderman Mark Drinnon said he believes the dwindling numbers occurred more because youth football overlaps with outdoor soccer, not due to football injury concerns. Drinnon said he believes those two sports shouldn’t be competing for players.
“I don’t know if it wouldn’t behoove us to do a little study to see if we can find some other time frame where those two sports don’t overlap,” Drinnon said.
As for potential safety concerns, Wilson’s predecessor tried a youth flag football league in hopes of reducing the possibility of injuries.
Wilson said it had the opposite effect because players weren’t wearing helmets and pads, but they were still bumping heads.
Deal asked Wilson to discuss with the Joint Recreation Board whether it wants to continue youth football and, if so, how it will cover the additional cost of insurance.
One idea suggested was passing the added cost on to the parents.
The league currently charges an equipment rental fee of $40 for city residents and $50 for county residents, which is more expensive than any other sport offered by the three cities, but Wilson said it is less than other nearby community youth football leagues charge.
The Joint Recreation Board hasn’t met since the insurance quote was received, and Wilson said he will schedule a special called meeting in time to report the board’s response to the BMA when it has a workshop on May 1.
“I can’t speak for them, but I do feel like we need to offer the sport for as long as we can,” Wilson told the BMA. “I feel like that’s what we’re here for — $2,800 is a lot of money, but then again that’s what we’re here for, to offer sports for the kids.”
There is also a traveling youth football league in Church Hill which is independent and isn’t affiliated with the municipal Recreation Board. It competes in the Sullivan County youth league.