Struggling to fill Bismarck Youth Football League roster

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BISMARCK, N.D. - Fewer children are signing up for the Bismarck Youth Football League, but organizers say they have a plan to tackle the shortage.

The organization was expecting to see a surge in sign-ups for football this year, but as you'll see, the signatures aren't coming in as expected.

Monday night, Bismarck youth football league coaches huddled to figure out how to address a shortage of players.

For the past few years, the Bismarck Youth Football League hasn't had difficulty filling rosters. In fact, they've been expanding and adding teams to shorten their waiting list, until now.

"Typically, we have a waiting list of anywhere between 25 and 30 kids, and we've been seeing those numbers drop," said commissioner Wayne Zacher.

Between the two youth leagues, the organization is nearly 100 players short of filling all 30 teams with 22 players.

Coaches say part of the reason for the shortage are parent's concerns for player safety. Coaches argue their equipment is tested appropriately and tackling techniques are improving. Another reason is the recent trend in athlete specialization.

"Kids are specializing in one sport and dropping the multi-sports. I mean, we have tryouts for hockey that start early in our football season," said Zacher.

One decision already made was reducing the number of teams in the fifth and sixth grade league from 16 to 14, and they're considering filling those two empty rosters with out-of-city rosters.

"When you're trying to explain to the offense that you have to block this imaginary corner back or this imaginary linebacker, it's much better to have a full roster of 22," said Head Coach Bill Prokopyk.

Registration for youth football is still open and runs through July 25. Online registration is available by searching Bismarck Youth Football.

With football season around the corner and deadlines looming, the league is hoping registration numbers (catches ball) catch up.