Gridiron hopefuls learn the ropes in middle school football

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 2, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Becoming a football star is a dream for millions of American boys, and especially in the South.

Young men dream of one day suiting up for their favorite college or professional team and winning the game.

As anyone knows, that dream is tough to make a reality. But for anyone who wants to get there, learning the game is a must. And there are few places better to learn the basics than at the middle school level.

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Nearly 30 young men from Cathedral Middle School were learning just that Monday afternoon on the first day of practice.

&8220;Football is a simple game,&8221; said coach Cloyce Hinton. &8220;But if you haven&8217;t been taught proper technique you&8217;re not going anywhere. The main things we do here is make sure they have all the basics down and that they learn how to protect themselves. If we can get them to learn that and learn the right techniques, we&8217;re doing OK. It&8217;s good to get them good on that so the high school coaches don&8217;t have to spend time with it when they&8217;re up there.&8221;

Jake Brown, an eighth-grade tailback for the Green Wave, had spent plenty of time in youth football and felt he was really beginning to learn the essence of football under Hinton and Mark McCann.

&8220;I&8217;ve learned a whole lot more about proper technique and things like that,&8221; Brown said. &8220;It really makes a difference.&8221;

Hinton said the change had more to do with the level of competition rising.

&8220;Seventh- and eighth-grade football is like an introduction to competitive football,&8221; he said. &8220;Any coaching is better than no coaching, We teach very basic four or five plays, one defensive set, and go at it. The goal is to get them to fall in love with football and teach them enough that the high school coaches don&8217;t start over.&8221;

Adam Kaiser, a linebacker/fullback, and Semmes White, a quarterback/cornerback, both agreed they were learning more in the past two years in middle school football.

&8220;My coaches in youth football taught me a lot,&8221; White said. &8220;But what you learn here is just so much more advanced.&8221;

&8220;They definitely teach you more positions and alignments,&8221; Kaiser said. &8220;He taught us about the tight ends, and that you don&8217;t have to have two of them on the field. It&8217;s been interesting.&8221;

While there may not be a future NFL star in the bunch, Hinton, a former coach at South Natchez High School, said the great part about coaching middle schoolers is seeing the real learning period take place.

&8220;The great part about this is we&8217;re there when the light bulb comes on,&8221; he said. &8220;That light has already come on once they&8217;re in high school. I sat and watched one of these kids that couldn&8217;t figure out how to get in the three-point stance properly, and after working on it a while he looked and said, &8216;Hey, I get it.&8217; That&8217;s neat to see.&8221;