Developing a youth football program from the bottom up is no easy feat.
In the fall of 2014, the Seymour Area Youth Football League launched its inaugural campaign in the hopes of creating a safety-focused, competitive football program for kids in their hometown.
Headed into its second year, the SAYFL has continued making strides in developing a football culture in the community.
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The SAYFL, a nonprofit organization, has more kids signed up prior to the start of the upcoming season than last and has more coaches on board.
A total of 12 coaches have fully committed to the program, and more parent volunteers are expected to join the staff as the season progresses.
“I think the biggest difference so far, with coaches, is that we’ve had to do less recruiting,” SAYFL President Michelle Shattuck said. “I think we have more coaches that were initially interested in working with the kids. I think it’s an indication of the experiences the coaches had last year.”
On Wednesday, the league will commence with a combine that will test the third- through sixth-graders’ abilities.
A draft will take place Thursday, the final day of the combine. The kids will be split into third- through fourth- and fifth- through sixth-grade teams.
From there, the athletes will practice and play games for six weeks.
Doug Prather, one of the SAYFL’s league directors, said that this season there will be changes to number of plays allowed on either side of the ball in an effort to further minimize player injury with tackling.
“We limit the number of plays the coaches can run on offense and defense,” Prather said. “There are fewer plays for the third and fourth graders than the fifth and sixth. We tell the coaches we want them to compete, but by executing better with a limited number of plays. That helps from the safety factor because we don’t have plays like the statue of liberty and flea flicker.
“Also, from another standpoint, it focuses on fundamentals. This league is about developing the fundamentals of football, it can be played safely while they can develop a love for the game.”
Organizers said safety still stands at the forefront for the SAYFL, which will be using equipment they purchased brand new last year.
The SAYFL is affiliated with USA Football’s “Heads Up Football,” a program that focuses on concussion prevention.
Each coach is required to be certified in “Heads Up” and by the state.
Of the 120-plus kids that participated in last year’s league, just two were sidelined with concussions.
“We understand and recognize the sensitivity associated with parents and concussions,” Prather said. “That’s why we affiliated ourselves with “Heads Up” football, which is associated with the NFL. Our Player Safety Director (Wade Banister) recently went to a clinic to help train the athletic trainers. All the coaches will be heads-up and state certified.”
This season, a team from Rock Creek (Sellersburg) will join the SAYFL.
Rock Creek will play their games in Seymour and still be a part of the combine, but will feature players strictly from their area.
Prather said the league will not turn into a travel team, but the SAYFL is open to other teams joining and coming to Seymour if they reach out an arm.
On the officiating front, the SAYFL feels confident in referees Brian Personett and Greg Reasoner.
Both Personett and Reasoner are IHSAA officials. The two have been working with the SAYFL in the offseason to better understand the playbooks that will run, so they can help the kids with the plays and formations.
Shattuck said that she thinks the players who competed last year will help mentor the newcomers.
“(The SAYFL) was brand new last year,” Shattuck said. “This year, we will have sixth-graders teaching fifth-graders, and fourth-graders teaching third-graders. Parents will be able to help and talk to one another more about it.”
The SAYFL, which is independent from Seymour City Schools, does hope that the league builds a stronger team for the high school.
“We know what coach Josh’s (Shattuck, the Owls’ varsity coach) expectations are of fundamentals,” Prather said. “We know what they need to know going into the seventh grade. That’s where our base playbook came from. The kids need to know a list of things.
“If they know that in the sixth grade, we’re miles away from where we were. Every team will do it the same way every single time. Josh has been helpful in setting the expectations on our coaches with sportsmanship, leadership and character. He know that success at varsity start at this level.”
In an effort to help numbers grow, the SAYFL offers scholarships for those in need of financial help.
“As a league, we don’t want kids not attending because they can’t afford it,” Prather said. “We will provide scholarship opportunities. If requirements are met, we can provide assistance to let the child play.”
While the league is young, the SAYFL wants football to return to prominence in the community.
The Owls’ varsity squad has gone 13-38 during the past five seasons, and the SAYFL wants to help that culture change.
“I think all of us feel the same way, we want to instill community pride,” Prather said. “Specifically in the football program, from our side. We would take pride in bringing the community together in a way we haven’t had in a few years. It would be very fulfilling and rewarding.
“It’s important to us and football in general. As a league, board and program we want to do this right. We want a strong belief in that from everyone involved.”
“I think all of us feel the same way, we want to instill community pride. Specifically in the football program, from our side. We would take pride in bringing the community together in a way we haven’t had in a few years. It would be very fulfilling and rewarding.” — SAYFL League Director Doug Prather
Early registration for the SAYFL, offered to kids from third to sixth grade, will go until August 12.
Cost for early registration is $100 per player or $90 per player with multiple kids in the same household.
Late registrants can play for $130. It’s $120 per player for multiple kids in the same household for late registration.
To take advantage of the early registration discount, the fee must be paid in full.
Payment plans are available, but pay the late registration fee amount.
Registration forms can be found at SeymourOwlsfootball.com under the SAYFL tab.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact them through their facebook or twitter.
Important dates for the SAYFL are as follows:
–August 12-14: Mandatory three-day player combine from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Seymour High School.
–Aug. 12: weigh-in and last day for “Early Registration” & continued equipment sizing.
–Aug. 13: “Late Registration” begins and continued equipment sizing
–Aug. 14: parent day and draft Night
–Aug. 17: first practice (week of August 17). Practice location and times will be determined by each head coach.
–Aug. 29: first games. Games will start once the Flag Football games have finished.