When I receive a request for promotion for a local league or a team, I’m usually happy to oblige. That’s the reason why I do this. We’re focusing on local athletes and local issues. When someone reaches out because they feel this space in the newspaper and in the digital realm might help them, it’s a small honor.

However, I was taken aback a little when Tehachapi Youth Football asked this week for some help. I’m thrilled to help TYF as much as I can. I write about them extensively. It’s one of our most well-run local organizations. The passion of the parents and board members running the ship is tough to duplicate. But when they asked me to help them attract more kids to sign up, I was a little heartbroken.

Finding kids to play football in Tehachapi has never been an issue. I remember long lines of sign-ups and physicals during my six years in TYF black and gold. Some levels had two teams (when that was allowed), and not to mention, the town was a lot smaller back then as well. I guess you can chalk this up to times have changed.

Currently, TYF is seeking more sign-ups for the 2018 season. Their freshman team sits at 24 players, the sophomore team is at 30, the junior varsity squad has 21 players and the varsity team, the oldest and most experienced players, has just 13 signed up. For teams designed to carry 30 players, this is a dangerously low number. These are the kids closest to the high school level. Participation at this age is critical for a variety of reasons.

Some might say that the bad press that football receives because of head injuries, CTE and a variety of other medical issues coming to light recently might be the culprit. There’s no denying that; youth and high school football participation is down nationwide. However, like any batch of statistics, if one studies the numbers you’ll find this fact: Football remains the most popular and boasts higher participation numbers than any other sport in America. Kids are still playing it more than any other sport.

That fact remains true locally. Fifty-five freshmen have signed up for Tehachapi High School freshmen football. The freshmen team historically has high numbers, with many kids deciding to try football at that age as they enter high school. For many it's an attempt at finding some group to identify with as they begin the high school journey.

Problem is, many don’t last beyond that freshman season because they had never played football before. Most of the junior varsity and varsity Warriors have some sort of youth football experience. It’s not a sport one simply picks up and tries, hence the importance of local youth development leagues like TYF. Safety for one is taught young, as is the traditions of Tehachapi football. Certain offensive and defensive philosophies practiced in high school are instilled at the TYF levels.

If you’re a parent of a seventh- or eighth-grader who might be toying with high school football, there’s still time to get them involved with TYF. It’s imperative that they not skip these important developmental years.

Sign-ups are currently open, on June 12-14 and again June 26-28 there will be some team practices from 5 to 7 p.m. Parents are encouraged to stop by the field and start the paperwork process. You can always email me, and I’ll get you in touch with the right people as well.

For $250 you can be confident your kids will learn how to play the game right, safely and have a lot of fun doing it. Their chance at success at the next level improves drastically, and they’ll make lifelong memories with their coaches and teammates.

Football cannot and will not become an endangered species on this Mountain. It’s crucial that we keep the pipeline full with the next batch of Warriors, and that journey starts with TYF.

Corey Costelloe has covered the NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter and broadcaster. A THS graduate, he now resides and works in Tehachapi. He can be reached at corey.costelloe@gmail.com. The opinions expressed are his own.