Number decreased in this year’s Vidalia youth football tryouts

Published 12:05 am Sunday, August 28, 2016

Six-year-old Tyson Duck and 5-year-old Trey Cole want to tackle.

At least, that’s why they said they wanted to try out for Vidalia’s 8-and-under youth football league Saturday morning t the Vidalia Lower Elementary fields.

Duck, who has wanted to play since he was 4 years old, followed the coaches’ instructions, running as fast as he could from home to first, he stood approximately five yards away from a coach who tossed him a football and watched him throw it back.

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Cole, who has played soccer in the past, said he is eager for full contact.

“I’m playing on defense,” he said.

League commissioner Mike Bowlin said the turnout for Vidalia youth football is slightly down from previous years. Bowlin said he suspects young players are choosing to focus on other sports — electing to play fall T-ball or soccer instead.

Bowlin said one of the key fundamentals he hopes the young football players learn is how to make harmless contact.

“Everyone is worried about football, but (in 8-under) we’ll have less injuries than we do in soccer,” Bowlin said. “They don’t really hit hard enough at this age to hurt each other, but they love hitting.”

The 8-and-under players ranged from ages 5 to 8, and Bowlin said the league will be made up of six teams. Vidalia hosts a 10-and-under and 13-and-under league that he said will each foster four teams.

Allan Morrow said he is in his eighth year of coaching youth football, before his son Jordan Morrow was born. Morrow realized the stigmatism football carries with regards to injuries, particularly head injuries.

“There’s a big strike on football right now,” he said. “We’ve got to get away from that stigma that football is not safe, because it is.”

Morrow said he is the league’s certified representative of Heads Up Football, an initiative by USA Football to “advance player safety in the game of football.”

Morrow said in the certification course, he learned misconceptions regarding how pads and helmets should fit, as well as safe hitting technique.

“Showing kids how to put the helmets on correctly … not just shaking their head around (inside the helmet),” he said. “There are some new techniques to tackling, like keeping your head up.”

Morrow said he and his fellow coaches are preaching “safer not softer.” He hopes that philosophy will help keep young players safe, while also teaching them life lessons about competition and the dynamic of a team.

If that means changing the way he coaches, he said he is okay with that as long has he can teach his players to love the game.

“The whole ‘blood makes the grass grow,’ we’ve got to get away from that,” Morrow said. “The big thing is teaching kids the right way to play. Teaching them how to lose, teaching them how to win graciously, but just let them have fun but be competitive.”