For the past decade, the youth in our community have been fortunate to have the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of football and sportsmanship in a safe environment thanks to many volunteers and community members who give of their time to the Sandpoint YMCA Grid Kids Football.
The group began locally in 2007 with one sixth grade team that played in the Coeur d’Alene League. The following year there was a seventh-grade team and two fifth- and sixth-grade combination teams. Today, the league is open to third through eighth graders.
In 2008, the group moved to the YMCA league. “The move was made because we believed the rules and philosophy of this league would be safer for our kids and let them learn more about the game,” said Brett Taylor, who serves as a member of the Sandpoint YMCA Grid Kids Football Committee. “In the spring of 2016, our group made the decision to formally become a YMCA committee instead of an independent board.”
Also serving on the all-volunteer committee are Caleb Bowman, Chad Loutzenhiser, Clint Brewington, Jay Van Den Berg and Chris Newhart.
The regular season has six games, and this year the YMCA will schedule four regular season games in Sandpoint and two away in Spokane.
“Fifth- through eighth-grade levels have two guaranteed playoff games for a total of eight games. For 2018, there will be a total of four home and four road games for those levels,” said Taylor.
The cost of registration for third and fourth grades is $200. For fifth through eighth grades it is $240. There are scholarships and financial assistance available and according to the committee, this is often underused for Sandpoint teams.
An important aspect of the financial assistance is that it is administered through the YMCA in Spokane, so coaches and committee members are not aware of who is on scholarship and who is not. “This can be a sensitive subject for many parents, and we feel this confidentiality is very important,” said Taylor.
All coaches are volunteers, and the local committee does not collect dues, approve financial assistance or have any money to spend. They are simply a committee of the Spokane YMCA and their role is to help facilitate the season and perform duties such as the selection of coaches, securing of practice and game fields, coordinating advertising and promotion, ensuring compliance of coaches with YMCA rules for play and sportsmanship, and more.
Taylor explains that what is unique about the YMCA are the different rules for play at each given grade level.
“As a player graduates through each grade level, rules for play become less restrictive and ultimately, by the time they are in eighth grade, they are playing by high school rules,” he said. For instance, in fifth grade, due to the possible variance in size of each child, there are weight restrictions on ball carriers. There are also restrictions on rushing the passer at lower grade levels to encourage the flow of the game. The YMCA also has rules for participation to ensure every athlete gets on the field for a certain number of quarters.
The committee shares that Sandpoint YMCA Grid Kids Football is the longest running, most tenured youth tackle football program in the area and has been associated with the national Heads Up football initiative promoting safe tackling and blocking techniques for several years. The committee is constantly looking for input from stakeholders such as parents and coaches in order to improve.
The YMCA will make it possible for any child and family who want to play. The parent or caregiver just needs to put in the effort to apply. Also, the committee is always looking for additional help coaching and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
“With the recent hire of Coach [Ryan] Knowles, we are very excited where youth football in Sandpoint is going,” said Taylor. “The kids in these upcoming classes should be very excited to be playing under someone with his experience and red and white Bulldog blood.”
Registration is currently open by either calling 509.777.9622 or going online to YMCASpokane.org. If a parent or caregiver is in need of financial assistance, they should call the YMCA prior to registration in order to start the application. The season runs the middle of August through mid-October for third and fourth graders and mid-August to the end of October for the older grades. Game dates are every Saturday between September 8 and October 27, and there are six or eight games depending on grade level.