Key points:

  • South Dakota HS football player participation is down 16.7%
  • Many rural schools are entering co-ops to get players
  • Safety is an issue, SD ranks 10th in the nation in HS football safety guidelines

High school football participation is down 16.7% in South Dakota, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.

KSFY TV reports many rural communities in South Dakota are entering co-op agreements to make sure there are enough players on the field.

The city of Freeman has always taken pride in its football team, winning four straight state titles from 1996 to 1999.  But in 2015, Freeman found itself in danger of losing its program because of a lack of students, so the school decided to join forces with Canistota.

Freeman School District Superintendent, Kevin Kunz:

It would have been very difficult to maintain, we're not even talking about a competitive program, but just a football program in general.

The partnership has led to a state title last season.

John Krogstrand, with the South Dakota High School Athletic Association:

It's not that kids aren't going out for football, it's that a lot of our smaller districts just don't have the kids, so we find more and more creative ways to put football together.

Injuries, such as concussions and C.T.E., is a factor for decreasing participation rates.  Krogstrand says the South Dakota Athletic Association ensures parents they're doing everything they can to keep the students safe.

Krogstrand says that South Dakota ranks 10th in the nation when it comes to following high school football safety guidelines.