In walking through the Barnett Elementary School Art show with my daughter a few weeks ago admiring all of the fantastic artwork by Barnett Elementary students, I was abruptly stopped by a lady and asked why I am supporting AYF football. For the purpose of respect, I will refrain from writing exactly how I was approached; let’s just say it was with an angry tone.
I calmly explained to this person that as head football coach and a physical education teacher at Ramona High School, I support “All kids being able to play any sport that they choose.” I told her that I support “big kids” being able to play a sport that can help get them get in shape and allow them to live a healthier lifestyle through activity.
I explained to her that there is an obesity problem in our country that is out of control. Most recently I read where the diabetes rate in young kids was at 3 percent some time ago and now it is at the 44 percent rate. I explained to her that AYF allows ALL kids to play football just like basketball, baseball, soccer, and all other sports do. Historically Pop Warner has not allowed “big kids” to participate. AYF just gives these kids the chance now. Isn’t this a good thing?
This has nothing to do with not supporting the current Ramona Pop Warner league at all. In fact, I have made myself and my staff the past seven years available at any time to educate and clinic Pop Warner coaches. We have held clinics for all kids and have Pop Warner night every year, allowing our young kids a chance to run on the field with the varsity team on Friday nights during the high school season. Ramona High School is a Supporter of SPORTS for ALL KIDS.
AYF and Pop Warner both provide a chance for kids to play a great sport. So, for the record: Coach Baldwin and his entire program support “All kids getting the chance to play football.” This is only emphasized because at the time of the start of AYF in Ramona, Pop Warner excluded BIG kids from playing. For anyone to insinuate that the high school program is supporting one program over the other is ridiculous, and they are grossly misinformed.
I do have a suggestion for both organizations that I will make public in this article. For the record, I have explained this possibility to both organizations. What should happen is for both leagues to come together to develop a platform of promotion for the kids. Have Pop Warner provide teams for the lower levels — meaning have four to five teams for certain age groups and weight. Let these teams operate and focus on teaching proper fundamentals and allow them to run any offense or defense that the kids and coaches can handle mentally.
Once kids reach a certain level or weight (team) then they “Promote” or “Graduate” to AYF. Have a banquet or ceremony where they get certificates, etc. Then allow AYF to operate the two bigger/older teams since they do not have a weight limit. These two teams could be the feeder teams to the high school. The high school would “train” these coaches and help them learn our offense and defense that we run at the high school so that, when the players become freshmen, they already know the system and the kids then “Promote” or “Graduate” into the high school program.
This would be sort of a three-tier football system that would benefit all programs and kids in Ramona. It would hopefully eliminate many issues and allow for all “adults” to work together to eliminate this current problem. It is hard for lower level teams and coaches to implement the high school system. This would make it so that only the older teams have to do that and allow for freedom and simplification at the lower levels, which is good.
Currently the Ramona High School staff volunteers many man hours annually meeting with any youth football coach who wants to learn. We invite them to come to our staff meetings and to all of our practices. I would call this “support” — that is why this is so frustrating to think that people would even “think” that the high school program would choose one program over the other. It just is NOT SO!
Football is a great game. It is an incredible TEAM sport that, when taught correctly, can provide tremendous life lessons and it builds character and work ethic in young people that they can take with them into adulthood. Let’s end this petty “grumbling” in our community about this league and that league. As adults, let’s work together and do what is BEST for our kids, and that is to put egos aside and operate full throttle toward providing opportunity for ALL.
Kudos to John Pecoraro (RPW) and Matt Curtiss (AYF) for all the time they are putting in to developing these organizations. I know there are many more people to thank, however these are the two officials from both leagues who the high school football program has worked with the most over the course of this developing issue.