COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSPD) -- High school football kicks off in Ohio tonight, but there aren't as many players on the field as there used to be.
Statistics from the Ohio High School Athletics Association show 44,431 participants in the 2013-2014 season. That's down from 55,027 in the 2009-2010 season.
"There's more sports specialization these days than there used to be and it's probably important to note too that a lot of schools have pay-to-participate fees and what that is causing a lot of students to do is dropping the sports that they don't excel at," said OHSAA spokesman Tim Stried.
Others point to a change in society with kids more likely to plop down in front of the television or computer over the summer rather than sweat it out at two-a-day practices.
A look back at the 1999-2000 season found that only 42,769 players were on football rosters around the state.
"Football is still very, very strong in Ohio, but the numbers just aren't what they used to be," Stried said.
The number of teams has also risen and fallen over the past 15 years. Ohio had 711 teams playing football in 1999-2000. That grew to 754 in 2009-2010, but dropped back to 715 last season.
"We might see participation number go up a little bit this year because we have eight new teams that are playing football this fall," he said.
While there has been an overall decline in football numbers, the number of girls picking up the sport has exploded. There were none in 2000-2001 and 13 in 2009-2010. Last year there were 142.
The OHSAA is doing more to engage students in middle school, not just for football, but other sports. Stried also points out that sports make up only a fraction of a school district's overall budget. Districts that have cut sports have also seen a drop in enrollment as students go elsewhere to play.