Where is football headed?

Published 7:00 am Friday, September 2, 2016

Sports are perpetually changing, especially football. The days of 250-pound offensive linemen in the NFL have long since passed, evolving to 350-pound linemen. But the game hasn’t only changed on the professional level; it’s changed at the high school and collegiate levels as well.

Dodd Lee, Picayune Memorial High School head football coach, said that the NFL is becoming a negative influence on the sport for the younger generations.

“The NFL is ruining football,” Lee said. “The sport was invented for kids to play, not 35-year-old millionaires.”

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For Lee, football teaches values and faith to young generations, something he said should not, and will not change.

Jay Beech, Poplarville Hornets head football coach, has another perspective on the progression of football, saying changes he’s seen since he played in high school are not necessarily for the worse.

“Athletes in today’s game are bigger, faster and stronger,” Beech said. “I think high schools put more emphasis on the weight room than they used to.”

Also, he said that football is turning into a 365-day sport. Years ago, Beech said high school and college football players would look for a job and work during the offseason. However, teams now start training the day after their season ends.

“If one team is practicing in November, then every team is practicing because you don’t want to fall behind. As a coach, you cannot allow other teams to out work yours. I think that mentality is a part of the reason of the progression of football,” Beech said.

Larry Dolan, Pearl River Central High School head football coach, has noticed an increase in the popularity of the sport.

“Football is a tough game played by tough athletes. It is a sport that everyone wants to play and watch,” Dolan said. “Because of this, more athletes are playing football and competing against each other more.”

The progression on football trickles down from what occurs in the NFL. Recently, football fans have seen a more pass heavy style of play than ever before. However, none of the three head coaches in Pearl River County seems to be phased by this national trend.

It is no secret that each local coach enjoys the ground and pound offensive aspect of football, but as time progresses, the more this style becomes rare.

“With teams like Harrison Central, Gulfport and many others, you see more spread offenses. This is because we see more college and professional teams spreading it out and throwing the ball around the whole field,” Dolan said.

Besides the progression of the style of play, there are other ways the game has changed.

“I am fearful that lawyers and politicians will come in and change the way football is played,” Beech said. “Concussion protocol has been greatly improved, which I am happy to see, but I hope no one steps in and tries to completely change how football is played, or viewed for that matter.”

All three of the coaches in Pearl River County agree that football is, and will continue to be, the best sport in the nation, instilling morals and ethics to a group of kids as they transform into adults.