Friday, October 27, 2006
C-C Pop Warner: thoughts from a newcomer
I'm looking around for someone to blame for my nine-year-old son's avid interest in football. Is it Tom Brady for making the Patriots really exciting to watch during Super Bowls? Is it Madden for lending his name and commentary to a very cool computer game? Is it local camps that offer Flag Football? Last year I thought if I signed him up for Pop Warner, he would lose interest as he did when he tried a week of summer camp lacrosse. Although my son was technically eligible to play on the D-team based upon his age and weight, the coach e-mailed to say he recommended we wait another year for him to get bigger. Now that impressed me. The coach was concerned about safety. Of course we did not want our son to get hurt, so we waited a year.
Concord/Carlisle Pop Warner is only in its third year. It is a successful and growing program. This year they added an E-team, which is designed for youths aged seven to nine and 45 to 90 pounds. My slim son was smack in the middle of the weight range. He initially wanted to be put on the D-team with one of his bigger classmates, but the coaches persuaded him to stay with the E-team to get leadership training and more play time. This was good advice. The coaches know they must make it fun for the players or they will not want to continue onto the next level.
A big commitment
Being a member of C-C Pop Warner is a big commitment for a player and his family. Practice begins in August in the evenings, Monday through Thursday. Family vacations must be taken in July, because missing those early practices means the players are not allowed to play in a game until they have met the required number of practice hours. All the practices are at Concord-Carlisle High School, so schlepping back and forth to Concord becomes routine. We must set aside 15 minutes each time we head off to a game or practice for dealing with the complicated football pads and garments. Cups, hip pads, thigh pads, girdles, belts, cleats, chin straps, mud stains, grass stains, perspiration — all rather overwhelming in the beginning, but these struggles have now become routine.
Why is it that these football players like to be told by loud-voiced coaches to run hills, do push ups and learn complicated plays in the sweltering heat of August or the biting cold of late fall? Why is it that parents are willing to wake up at 5:30 a.m. to attend an away game that requires warm-ups at 7 a.m.? It is because the Concord-Carlisle coaches have fostered a climate where everyone wants to help the team be successful. The coaches teach the correct way to block and tackle. It is mostly a running game in Pop Warner, but it is so exciting when one of the rare throws is actually caught by a teammate, or a player stiff-arms his way past an opponent and runs 30 yards for a touchdown. Yay! All the parents shout approval from the sidelines, even those frantically counting players and plays to make sure both teams play every player for the minimum of twelve plays a game. Birth certificates, official weigh-ins, play counts, ten hours of practice without pads before pads are allowed —there are a lot of rules in Pop Warner, and all are designed to keep the playing field safe and fair.
If you are a parent of a child interested in football, but you (naturally) have reservations because of the inherent dangers in the sport, consider what would happen if they chose to begin football as a freshman. No prior experience tackling and being tackled and no sorting players by size. Now that would scare me as a parent. No sport these days is risk-free. My son has had a sore muscle or two from football, but nothing serious. I'm the one who broke my finger attempting to catch a far-flung football.
Team spirit, endurance, cooperation, discipline are some of the life-enhancing skills my son is learning in C-C Pop Warner. Focusing, back lighting, zoom control, picture cropping are some of the new skills my husband is learning as he evolves into a sports photographer. Offsides, clipping, false start, reverse, blitz are some of the football terms that are finally beginning to make more sense to me.
I know whom to blame for my son's avid interest in football. It is Ken Belt, Bill Crowley, Ron Bott, Jack Carlton, Tim Dibble, Adam Feiner, Paul Long, and Mark Szczesniak, the wonderful C-C Pop Warner coaches and officials who work so hard to make the youngest players' E-team experience so fulfilling. I don't blame you, I thank you.
You can find more information about Concord/Carlisle Pop Warner at their web site http://eteamz.active.com/CCPW.
© 2006 The Carlisle Mosquito