Monday, October 5, 2009

Youth Football: Steel Valley Style

Friday Night Lights got nothin' on The Youngstown Area for the excitement football brings to the masses. Any self-respecting burglar knows he can rob just about any house on Friday evening during football season. Even 80 year old widows find their way to the local field for the community event of Fall.

Any even semi-athletic boy get exposed to the Recruiting Wars that started in grade school at age 8. All boys interested in playing, were intstructed to report to an area practice field for try-outs. Everyone was selected on a team. Such inventive team names! The Bob Cats, The Tiger Cats, The Wild Cats, and The Bear Cats. Every Kid was outfitted head -to -toe with new equipment. I can't imagine the fund raising necessary to raise the needed money. I know the local Grid Iron Club contributed to the cause. Afterall, these were their future high school stars they would soon worship!

Practices were daily, often until dark. Scores of photocopied plays were handed out with every position expected to know their assignment. I know my team had several plays that came directly from the Cleveland Browns. Remember, these were 8-10 year old boys being trained for The Grid Iron Wars that would carry on for at least the next 10 years!

Games were usually on Sunday afternoons at the local high school field. It wasn't uncommon for a thousand people to show up to watch. These games seemed to have all the hype of The Super Bowl. Complete with Cheerleaders and Ushers passing around the Donation Buckets. Oh, and don't forget the tape recorded playing of The National Anthem! I remember playing a scrimmage game on a blacktop parking Lot because the field was too muddy! The Coaches and Parents even pointed their cars towards the field and turned on their headlights so we could finish the game in the dark! That's what I call Dedication!

Terms like, "Don't be a Cry Baby!", "Rub some dirt on it!", "Give me 110 percent!", and "Losing means you didn't practice hard enough!", I think all originated in Youth Football. I came home bloodied and bruised many a night and more than once, one of my parents had me undress on the back porch because I was too muddy to come in the house. Funny, I wouldn't have traded any of it. I DID learn a lot about team work and dedication and had life experiences that stick with me to this day.

I was fortunate enough to be selected as an All Star every year I played and was All Conference as a Freshman. I still have a Biography I wrote in Third Grade where my future plans included playing in the NFL. Fate dealt me a cruel blow when I was fifteen. I was critically injured in a 10-Speed Vs. Car Accident that left me with a skull fracture and a shattered left knee. My Playing Days were over. I gravitated to coaching. Hey, somebody's got to carry on the traditions!


  1. You and Burt Reynolds have something in common. He was headed for a career in football, crashed his car and got into the college drama department.

  2. I'll never get to interact with Sally Field though. At least my wife looks like Loni Anderson!