A Northern Virginia high school has canceled its varsity football program this season due to low player turnout.
The decision to drop the varsity team at Manassas Park High School this year came after an average of 15 players were showing up to practice each day for the past two weeks, school officials said. The state recommends that there are at least 25 players to maintain a varsity football team.
The school district is citing several reasons for the low turnout, which includes safety concerns for athletes and parents.
"Based on these recommendations, it was decided by school and division officials that playing at the varsity level would expose student athletes to a higher risk of injury and participation posed a serious safety threat," Manassas Park principal Pamela Kalso said in a letter to parents.
School officials said senior and junior students will be eligible to play on the junior varsity team. The school's coaching staff will continue to film games to help provide college coaches with game footage of their players seeking to play at the collegiate level. The school's coaches will continue to promote their student-athletes to visiting college coaches as well.
However, the decline of the varsity football program comes after Manassas Park won a state championship over a decade ago in 2004.
A parent whose son played on the football team last year at a competing school said her son has opted not to play this year.
"Although we are a football-loving family, we supported our son to decide not to play," said Anne Young. "Concussions can happen with any sport and we know that. But we are kind of okay with him deciding not to play for a lot of health reasons, and then in the news recently with the University of Maryland situation."
The school's administration and the coaching staff met with parents and athletes Tuesday night. They said some were disappointed that there will not be a varsity team on the football field this season, but they understand the school's concern for student safety with the lack of players.
However, there is hope that Manassas Park will be able to field a varsity football team in the future.
"School officials are also working on scheduling an independent varsity schedule for the 2019 and 2020 seasons," Kalso said. "During this time, Manassas Park will continue to grow a newly formed middle school program that will directly lead into the high school football program."