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August 24, 2014

Youth Football Lays the Foundation

Most of the players who play in front of large crowds at college football games or the National Football League (NFL) got their start playing football at an early age. Finding a youth league in Virginia s relatively easy as most cities and counties around the state sponsor football as part of their recreation program. Just like their high school counterparts, the different age groups begin practicing in August and play a weekly schedule of games. The best teams often play in a Youth Superbowl for city bragging rights.

One such organization is the Newport News Parks and Recreation League which has competitive football (http://www.eteamz.com/nnrecfootball/) for ages 6 thru 13. The Newport News league has been operating for over 40 years and has help develop players such as Aaron Brooks (New Orleans Saints), Michael Vick (currently with the New York Jets), and David Macklin (Arizona Cardinals).

The key to a successful youth football league are the dozens of volunteers from the coaches, directors, team moms, and even the chain crew during a game. Lawrence Stokes has been a volunteer for the Oyster Point football organization for 15 years and he is currently the Director of Youth Football for Oyster Point. Stokes says the lessons learned from youth football are critical for anyone interested in playing high school football.

"First of all, youth football teaches the basic skills and fundamentals to play the game of football. It provides the skills to play the game correctly, safely, and with some integrity and with sportsmanship to grow up to be not just good athletes but good student athletes."

Stokes started as an assistant coach with the 6-7 year old age group and he continued to volunteer his time because he loves working with the kids and to help his own son who played in the Newport News recreation league before playing for Denigh High School. Stokes said each year is a building block of football knowledge and that knowledge is most important for the youngest kids.

"For the 6-year olds we want to start off with the basic fundamentals of youth football such as the 3-point stance, safe tackling, blocking the correct way and sportsmanship," he said. "At that age level, you want make sure they are having the most fun because they are the future of your program."

Marcus Jones has been a volunteer coach in the Newport News Recreation program for 10 years including four years with the Boys and Girls Club. He concurred with the comments made by Stokes.

"It's important because of the impact of contact at the youth level," Jones said. "As they gradually work their way up thru the youth league, the contact is going to get tougher and it's going to be more competitive. Starting early molds them and lays the foundation so they will know what to expect when they reach high school."

Jones says he gets more out of volunteering then just coaching football. He found out that he not only teaches football skills, but life skills as well.

"I like the interaction with the kids especially teaching the young men good values and good morals," he said. "It's about learning the game of football in a safe manner and letting (the youth) know that you are not going to win every time, just as in life. You're going to win some and lose some but regardless, you always keep your head up and keep moving forward."

Jones served as one of the coaches to the 9-10 year old Oyster Point football team that won the Newport News City championship last year but he says it wasn't because he had better football talent. He believes hard work helped his team overcome a three touchdown deficit in the title game.

"From a coaching standpoint you have to demand and tell the kids exactly what you want and don't differ," he explained. "We really taught effort; we wanted the kids to give 100 percent effort every time whether you make a tackle or miss a tackle. I can except it more If you are giving 100 percent then if you miss a tackle and only give 50 percent."

To learn more about recreation activities, visit the local Government webpage for your area.

Staff writer Will Garlick covers high school sports for VirginiaPreps. You can reach him via email at
[email protected] or via Facebook

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