The high shrill of a whistle, the clanking of helmets and the savory smell of the concession stand are all reminders that football season is fast approaching. It won’t be long until youngsters hit the gridiron for a new season of flag and tackle play through the Boys and Girls Club of Johnson City and Washington County.
Sign-ups for the club’s flag, midget tackle and pee wee tackle leagues will be accepted through July 29 at the club, 2210 W. Market St. The leagues are open to children of all skill levels.
“Our league is geared toward first time players,” said Cecil Moore, the club’s athletic director. “We don’t care if it’s your first year or your third year, you get treated the same. You just get familiar with the game of football and that’s what it’s about.”
The leagues also maintain a mandatory-play rule that says each person on the roster must partake in at least 8-10 plays per game.
“At this age, we make sure that kids learn the fundamentals and get smiles on their faces and enjoy the game,” Moore said. “We don’t want the parents to come and see them setting on the bench.”
Children ages 5-7 play flag, 8 and 9-year-olds play midget tackle and ages 10-12 play pee wee tackle. To be eligible to play, a child must reach the required age by Aug. 1. Flag football costs $45, while tackle is $65 and includes a jersey and equipment.
The three leagues accumulate more than 200 players each year and participate in the Appalachian Youth Football League. During the 8-10 week season, the teams play at other fields in Greeneville, Morristown and Afton, which gives players a feel for what it’s like to travel with a middle or high school team.
Another unique aspect of the Boys and Girls Club football leagues is their NFL replica jerseys.
“I wanted to make it something that the kids could identify with because I want the kids to be proud they wear that jersey,” Moore said. “They can wear it to school and can tell people that they play for the Boys and Girls Club. They play on Saturdays and then they can wake up on Sunday and see the team that they play for on TV.”
New players are randomly drawn onto teams coached by volunteers. Moore says the leagues are in need of coaches and anyone interested can call the club at 461-4560.
“The leagues can only go as far as the volunteer coaches because they’re the ones who put in the time and the effort because they have a passion for it,” he said.
Those interested in registering a child in the program should come to the club between 7 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. First-time participants are required to bring a copy of the player’s birth certificate.