Fairfield Ledger
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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 21, 2017

Youth football: The future of the program

By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Sep 21, 2017
Photo by: ANDY HALLMAN/Ledger photo Fairfield varsity football head coach Matt Jones, right, leads a drill during a youth football camp in August on the FHS practice field.

The key to a successful football program is getting young kids involved so they enter high school with a few years of experience under their belt, instead of starting from scratch.

Trojan head coach Matt Jones is intimately familiar with the trials and tribulations of teaching football to youngsters at every level. Since coming to Fairfield in 2008, Jones has been an assistant coach for seventh-graders, the high school’s defensive coordinator and a youth football volunteer.

In August, Jones and a team of assistants ran camps for elementary and junior high students wanting to sharpen their skills on the gridiron. They are joined by high school football players who assist with the drills.

The Ledger caught up with Jones and asked him a few questions about how the youth camps went this year.

 

1) What are some of the drills you have the kids do, and what skill is each trying to hone?

The kids were put through a variety of drills on offense, defense, and the kicking game. They were put into some individual skill drills, and had some time to run team offense and defense with grade level peers. We wanted kids to have fun, and also learn individual skills and our team concepts and schemes.

 

2) What mistakes do youngsters that age tend to make in football compared to high school students, and how do you correct those?

With young student/athletes, it is all so new to them. They are highly enthusiastic about learning and it’s certainly fun coaching them.

 

3) Are all the high school football players involved in the camps? And what does it mean to the youngsters to see high schoolers helping?

We had a great turnout of HS football players to help. I asked for volunteers, and we had between 20 and 30 each night. Our high school student/athletes are role models for the younger kids. We all remember when we were younger and looked up to an older student. It’s no different. The unique thing also is that putting our 9-12 kids in this position allows them to understand that what they think, say, and do matters so much to younger kids. They are being watched closely, so it adds an extra layer of accountability.

 

4) What can kids of this age do to prepare themselves to play football in high school? Do you recommend that they lift weights during the year, play pickup games, play other sports?

I definitely recommend playing as many different sports as possible. Staying active and getting physical exercise is important. Also, playing different sports uses different muscle groups and trains your body for variety.

Being in football shape is different from wrestling shape, which is different from Cross-Country shape, which is different from baseball shape. Doing just one thing over and over can lead to burn out and overuse injuries.

I also like to see kids get out and play by themselves with no adults around. Good old fashioned neighborhood games of baseball, football, basketball, and other activities don’t happen as much anymore. This also leads to kids being able to play and solve problems on their own without adult intervention.

I don’t recommend lifting weights until developmentally ready. I recommend body weight exercises such as air squats, pushups, situps, pullups or monkey bars.

Developing good technique is important on each of these. Once a student/athlete is ready to lift weights (I would inquire with a medical professional), be sure that technique is perfected before worrying about the amount of weight being lifted.

Once student/athletes are developmentally ready and have honed excellent technique, weight should be added to allow muscles to grow and adapt to the load.

 

5) How many hours per day do you spend in practice, between the varsity, JV, freshmen and youth camps?

Lots of hours go into planning practice, meeting with the coaching staff, developing the playbook, etc. These things happen before we hit the field. The week of Aug. 13-19, most of our coaches have put in over 35 hours with meetings, planning, football practice for high school and 5-8 youth camp, 3rd and 4th camp, Canvass the Town, and “Meet the Trojans.”

Coaches don’t do it for the money, as the money doesn’t add up when you look at time spent. However, the positive influence a coach can have on a young person can have lasting effects on a student/athlete for a lifetime. That is why the majority of coaches do what they do.

 

6) For the fifth-graders, is this their first taste of playing tackle football, or would they have played it in a youth league?

In our community, we have a park and rec flag football program. We also have a privately funded Youth Football Program for students in grades 5 and 6. It costs $50 to participate. However, if cost is an issue, please visit with the director, as we don’t want to turn away anyone for financial reasons. This is a padded, instructional league.

It’s their first exposure to contact and pads. Fun, fundamentals and sportsmanship are emphasized heavily.

Parents must gauge the physical and emotional maturity of their child to determine if they are ready to play. We have majorly upgraded the equipment in the past 3-4 years, and we emphasize safe fundamentals. Teams are selected to be as equal as possible, and there is no travel to different towns to play.

 

7) Who are the assistant coaches helping with the camp?

Our entire varsity staff, middle school staff, and volunteer youth coaches were at the camp. I’ve been really impressed with the amount of people willing to volunteer.

Our varsity staff consists of: Matt Schenck, Chad Setterstrom, Nate Weaton, Shawn Dorman, Jay Pike, Steve Miller, Justin Copeland, Brian Dunlap, and Woody Orne.

The middle school staff consists of: Josh Allison, Terry Allison, Mick Flattery, Joe Kruzich, and Tony Camero.

The youth football staff director is Ted Richardson. Paul Konczal and Dustin Johnson also assisted at the camp.

 

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