New youth tackle football league introduced

The drive to localize youth tackle football piqued the interest of Fort Dodge head coach Matt Miller.

His motivation to collaborate with Athletes For Education and Success wasn’t about making kids more competitive at an earlier age, though. Far from it.

”We want the kids to have fun, first and foremost,” Miller said. ”It’s about promoting a healthy environment to learn the fundamentals of the game at an affordable price. In a lot of ways, it’s long overdue. I’m just excited to help in any way I can, because there’s nothing better than getting these kids involved and watching them grow in a positive and encouraging way.”

Clayton’s AFES organization is in charge of the new local tackle competition for all fifth and sixth grade students, public or parochial. Miller and Hall of Fame coach Sam Moser – Miller’s predecessor – will be directly involved with the league, along with other Dodger assistants.

Clayton highlighted the $50 season fee per player as a ”much more affordable alternative” to what has been offered at this age level in the past.

”We’re really excited about this opportunity, because we think it’s a realistic chance to enhance participation and love for the game of football,” said Clayton, the AFES executive director. ”That’s what it should be about, especially at this age. We’re not going into this to make money off of these families. We’re not going into it only to see the more talented kids play.

”We want to try and get as many people in the community on the same page as possible, while making sure their children learn how to play the game the right way at a reasonable cost. We won’t turn anyone away due to financial difficulty.”

The preseason registration deadline for students entering grades 5-6 in the 2014-15 academic year is April 15. Leagues will begin in early August and run through early October, with games being played at Dodger Stadium.

Equipment fitting starts in May.

”We’re seeing something similar in communities like ours at this age level; Sioux City, Cedar Falls and others offer local competition for fifth and sixth graders,” Miller said. ”It’s a great way to introduce kids to tackle football and provide a more inclusive, supportive atmosphere. No one should be scared or intimidated to the point where they don’t want to give this sport a try.”

Meanwhile, flag football for students entering grades 1-4 will be a combined effort of both the Fort Dodge Parks and Recreation Department and the Fort Dodge Community REC this coming fall.

”We’re always looking for ways to expand and grow while keeping the best intentions of our local families in mind,” said David Pearson, executive director of the FDCRC. ”Any time we can work with an organization like the (Parks and Rec. Department) and offer a more quality program, we are all for it. We did it with (youth basketball this past winter), and we expanded from 12 teams to 42 teams through the new Rec. Alliance. That’s a very exciting movement forward.”

FD Parks and Rec. director Lori Branderhorst agreed.

”The more we talked about it with other local leaders and organizers, the less it made sense to run competing programs,” Branderhorst said. ”We’re much better off joining forces to enhance the experience of our kids. It’s a partnership that will benefit everyone.”

Branderhorst was encouraged by Miller’s enthusiasm for involvement.

”He obviously has a vested interest in the game’s participation levels, but it goes beyond just being a head coach,” Branderhorst said. ”Matt is so passionate about football, and wants to spread that enthusiasm. I know that (the new program) is in good hands with AFES. We will support them (with the tackle league), and I know they will support the Rec. Alliance (at the flag football level). Everyone wants what is best for the kids of our community, without question.”