The football community in Kamloops is struggling and it might be up to a group of the sport's local shareholders to save it.
On Oct. 29 a group of about a dozen individuals involved in the sport will be meeting at Riverside Park to discuss the future of the sport in the city. The meeting was organized, and will be chaired by, Brad Yamaoka.
"Their numbers have been dropping, for whatever reason," Yamaoka said, of football across the city. "That's kind of part of why we're getting together. . . . As a community we need to work together a little bit more."
Yamaoka began playing football in Grade 8 and came up in the Kamloops system. He was part of the last Kam High football squad to win a provincial championship and then went on to play five years at UBC. He was later drafted by the B.C. Lions and played two seasons there before being traded to Winnipeg where he played another five.
He made his life in football and he said there are plenty of opportunities, like university scholarships, for kids to do the same.
Yamaoka said the meeting will focus on finding out why the numbers are down across the city and trying to come up with some constructive solutions. The group hopes to track athletes through the various football systems and see if there are trends indicating when kids are dropping off and why.
He also has some of his own ideas about why programs are in the decline.
"The first thing that comes to mind is the safety of the children," he said, adding that other sports also have issues with safety. "I know over the last couple years especially, there's been a lot of talk about concussions. . . . Maybe parents are hesitant to get their child started at a younger age, but it's hard to say.
"I think we need to get together as a group and really try to push it and see how we can develop the sport. . . . Football is one of those sports that if we don't start grasping at it now and getting it back on track it may just disappear completely."
One of the casualties this year was the South Kamloops Titans varsity team, which packed it in this year.
For Yamaoka that was especially disheartening, considering he came up in that system. He's hoping the group can sit down next week and start working towards a solution.
"I think football is as popular as it's ever been," he said. "I don't think football in general is hurting, I just think kids aren't playing it."