Kids Coach Kids: Blue Jays Run Youth Football Programs – Jamestown Sun
A group of 10 Blue Jay football players get a smile for at least an hour every Tuesday and Thursday night.
“I came to coaching because I love being part of the game,” said Connor Traut. “I wanted to influence the development of these younger kids in hopes of making them the best players possible. I also love seeing the smiles and overall love they have for the game.
“One thing I like about coaching these younger kids is how pure they are — they always make you smile or laugh.”
Traut was tasked with the challenge of coaching Jamestown Soccer Club’s under-8 youth team along with three other Blue Jay football players, Dylan Altringer, Brady Harty and Cashton Bollinger.
Peyton Welsh, Hannah Murchie, Claire Frohlich, Liv Frohlich, Reece Christ and Olivia Sorlie – all members of the Blue Jay girls college football team – coach the under-6 football players.
“A lot of what we teach them is ball control and how to play with their teammates,” said Fröhlich. “This experience has taught me to be more patient, I have to remember that they are small and very excited.
“The kids are just fun to work with, I love to see how excited they are to be there and they’re not afraid to be silly around us, which is definitely fun. I would like to continue training when I come back for the summer.”
The concept of high schoolers being responsible for teaching the basics of the game is relatively new. Most of today’s high schoolers only remember being coached by college students, parents, or University of Jamestown football coaches.
“When Brady (Harty) was little, we were in Bismarck back then and there were college kids from the University of Mary who coached him,” said Brandi Harty, JHS headboy soccer coach. “When I was in Jamestown for college, we helped out a bit with the youth programs, but I don’t think the high school kids helped out as much as we do now. It differs from club to club.”
Harty said Jamestown youth football club has changed in recent years as the club no longer has the same managerial director – a change that gives Blue Jay footballers more opportunities to get involved.
Harty said if players have a desire to continue coaching, they can stick with it and earn their E-License, which would allow them to train at a higher level as they gain experience.
According to Harty, to train at youth level, there are no hard and fast qualifications other than that the kids who train have played and understand the basics of the game.
“The goal is to catch them when they’re younger and that they find it interesting and it’s something they pursue going forward,” Harty said. “You really enjoy working with these kids and seeing how successful they are at the end of the session.
“The guys have some returners from the first session who are now doing the second session and it’s kind of nice to see them interacting with these boys and girls again because they know them.”
There were two sessions this year – the first took place from April 12 to May 26, and after a 10-day break, the second session began. The summer session ends on July 21st.
“Brandi asked me to help her with U8 last year because my sister was in that group,” Sorlie said. “I volunteered this year after hearing I could help out as a coach again.
“I would love to coach the U6s and U8s for the rest of my high school years. The coaching taught me to be very patient with young players. It also taught me to find alternative ways to practice and get players to listen and interact.”
Each age group – the U6s and U8s – is usually broken up into a few smaller groups to make it easier for the teenagers to contain the energy and excitement.
“I try to have two coaches per field,” Harty said. “There are still a lot of kids playing so it’s always nice to have two coaches together because if a kid is struggling or needs help tying their shoes, one coach can focus on helping that kid and the other can keep training . ”
What does the coaching of elementary school children actually look like? Does it rule chaos or actually teach skills?
According to Sorlie, it’s a bit of both.
“Although chaos control is one of the jobs that we have as coaches, the most important job we have is to coach them in positioning their actual skills to improve their performance,” Sorlie said.
Warming up, Sorlie said the kids just dribble and focus on their footwork. Sometimes there are squadrons that focus on dribbling through the cones, controlling the ball, and touching the ball lightly. Towards the end of practice there is usually a 4v4 scrimmage, working on how the kids pass, position themselves and open up to their teammates.
“I always wanted to be a coach once I reached that age,” Brady said. “We focus the most on playing as a team because we’re preparing them to play as they age.
“I like how much energy the kids have and how eager they are to learn to play football. It’s nice to train the kids – it helped my presentation skills.”
Practices take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:30pm to 6:30pm at the Jaycee Soccer Complex.
Harty sends the youth coaches an exercise sheet so they know what should be covered during the lesson. From then on, Harty said it was up to the high school students how they wanted to approach the specifics of the practice.
“I think this experience taught me to explain things in a simpler way so that I can be understood,” Traut said. “I also think it taught me tremendous patience. It can get a bit messy at times, but that’s expected with these younger kids. It’s all about balance.”
The U6 age group does not play any external competitions but the youth teams do play some friendlies such as the Jamestown Jamboree which was played at the complex on 11 June.
While mostly young soccer players sign up for practices and scrimmages, Harty said if the U8 team gets enough parental support, they will travel to Mandan to compete in the 2022 Splashdown tournament on July 22-24.
“I see a great future for the Blue Jay football teams,” said Sorlie. “There are a large number of children who want to play and if they stick with it, the football program will not be lacking. The kids seem to enjoy it and they work hard during the hour I see them.”
“There are a lot more collegiate players coached in larger communities and we have collegiate players who help out, but in the summer a lot of them move away. So our high school has taken over these kids a little bit, and it’s a really good thing.”
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