My son [Cooper] started football last year, he’s a fairly small guy and he moved up this year, he’s in grade seven and he’s playing Bantam, which is up to ninth graders. So when I looked at it I thought it would be a nice opportunity for the guys who don’t play as much in the 12-on-12 league to maybe go against guys a little bit closer to the same size and give them some opportunity to get on the field more. So we talked at length all off-season with people from football Alberta and the City of Calgary, and the Airdrie Storm and Wildcats were the two organizations that really stepped up and thought this six-on-six league was a good idea.
We play a full on tackle football game, we don’t use the whole football field though, we just use the width. Everybody plays; receivers, DB’s, linebackers – everybody’s eligible – and everybody is tackling and having fun. A lot of kids have never touched the ball, and now they have the opportunity and I can tell that they’ve enjoying it. I’m just trying to keep people involved and develop some skill. It’s for the guys that are a little bit smaller, to give them a chance.
My story: when I was in seventh grade I was 75 pounds and I didn’t make the ‘A’ team. In Montana they have an ‘A’ and ‘B’ team. But what the ‘B’ team did was allow me to compete on a bit more of an even playing field and give myself some confidence. I enjoyed playing on the ‘B’ team a lot; I think it generated a lot of love for the game for me. It was my first year of contact football, so that’s what I’m trying to get started here.
Sometimes what happens, especially if you start the sport a little bit late, you get buried on the depth chart. And some football teams have 40-something kids and well, you can’t get them all on the field. And those teams are still trying to win as well. I just feel like if kids sit on the sidelines they won’t come back out and won’t become a lifelong fan of football. So the benefit is to get them on the field, trying different positions and touching the ball.
We don’t have a lot of size in the league, so we have to get a receiver to snap the ball and sometimes he has to block a blitzing linebacker. There are really no O-line or D-line guys, it’s more the skill level guys. But they’ll play both offence and defence.
There’s a linebacker kid that hadn’t played but he got an interception, he got a bunch of tackles and when I brought him over on offence his eyes were like saucers like ‘what am I doing over here?’, but he enjoyed it.
We had a defensive back catch his first touchdown pass; he’s never touched the ball. His dad was telling me how much he enjoyed that.
I have quarterbacks batting down balls as a defensive back, and they seem to have more fun with that. It really has given kids more of an opportunity to play different positions and a chance to actually get on the field.
I’ve had a lot of help from people, including J.C. Sherritt. J.C., honestly, that’s a huge favour he’s given me by helping coach, I have to say thanks publicly. No one is getting paid or anything like that, and he’s taking his time out to help. I have a kid involved so that’s easy, but when you don’t even have a kid involve it shows you what type of guy he is and we appreciate it.
As for my son, Cooper, he’s the youngest and smallest kid on the team, but he competes hard. He got player of the game last week. Bantam Football provides announcers, refs, and they have a player of the game. We’re not big time or anything but they definitely let the kids feel like it’s a real game, and obviously my son and a lot of them just enjoy the competition.