Today: May 27 , 2020

Youth Football Team Teaches Lessons, Heads to Championship Game

02 November 2017  
Coach Jolley and the Badgers Youth Football team take a photo after winning the semi-final on Saturday, October 28th, 2017 in Prescott Valley, Arizona. All Photos by: Torrence Dunham

Prescott Youth Football Team to Play for League Championship

PRESCOTT VALLEY- Just a few steps away from where high school students suit up each Friday night in the fall at Bradshaw Mountain High School for a game of football, lays a backfield that provides the same joy of the sport for kids whose pads and helmets are a bit smaller. On Saturday, October 28th, Andy Jolley’s youth football team made up of kids in kindergarten, first grade and second grade won the Alliance Youth Football League semi-final and will play in the championship at Northern Arizona University on Saturday, November 4th.

“We knew it was going to be tough, we basically won at the last minute,” said Jolley, whose Badgers beat the Flagstaff Panthers 25-21. “We’ve got a great group of kids. They fought really hard…I’m just happy for the kids, it’s great for them.”

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Many would be surprised to discover a football league for children of this age. In fact, Jolley was surprised himself. After doing some research last year following his son’s request to play the sport, Jolley found the Alliance Youth Football League. Since the Prescott team needed a coach, Jolley decided to give it a shot having coached basketball, soccer, and baseball in the past.

In his second year as head coach, Jolley says the sport of football is a different type of mental game for children of that age as opposed to other sports.

“Football is different than the other sports because it’s a little more disciplined,” Jolley said. “(In) football, everybody has to play, everybody has to do their job or it’s just not fun…they eat it up, they want to be disciplined.”

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The disciplined learned on the gridiron translated off the field as well. Jolley mentioned the kids on the team seem to be more attentive in school to direction, just like on the football field.

“We hear about how the football players are good kids,” Jolley said. “I think it’s that discipline that carries over. When their teacher tells them something, they do it. Just like they do when I’m coaching them.”

Discipline isn’t the only lesson being taught on the soccer backfield at Bradshaw Mountain High School. Amber Blanchard’s son Tyler, 8, has also developed more responsibility skills due to participating.

“As a mom, I’m guilty of babying my boy a little bit too much,” Blanchard said. “This (football) has got him to be just a little bit more tough and assertive and really looking at being a part of the team and what that means as far as him being responsible for his uniform, equipment…and trying hard."

“I think it’s the values that any sport teaches, not just the win,” Blanchard continued.

While the sport of football has been beneficial for Blanchard’s son, there was some hesitation at first due to the nature of the game.

“I was really hesitant at first, because of thinking how dangerous it was,” Blanchard said. “Then, he (Tyler) really wanted to do it and I figured if he wanted to do it when he got older, I’d rather he learned how to do it now. Learn how to hit and take a hit versus going into junior high and getting really hurt.”

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Upon joining the league, Blanchard noticed the attention both the league and coaches put toward injury prevention. Jolley mentioned all coaches must go through concussion protocol each season along with having a trainer at each game for player safety. Jolley says each sport a kid can play is dangerous and the league is trying the best they can to minimize potential injuries through various techniques.

“We teach heads-up football, it’s mandatory,” said Jolley, adding the team did not have a major injury or concussion yet this season. “We are trying to minimize as much as we can…we are doing everything we can to keep them safe.”

Hand-in-hand with keeping the children healthy and teaching important lessons is the fun had on the field. Jolley said the semi-playoff atmosphere had a different feeling as opposed to a regular season game in the sense of the kids realized the importance of the win.

“We try to make mainly about us having fun and making sure they want to play later in life,” Jolley said. “The great thing about kids this age is usually I have to tell them if we won or lost….they don’t get high or low, they just go out and play and have fun.”

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The enjoyment of the sport is why Jolley recommends parents have their kids play if interest is shown. Jolley believes trying the sport at a young age can tell whether football is for them.

“It’s good for kids at this age to figure out whether they want to play later on or not,” Jolley said. “If you run a kid out there in 7th grade and he gets smacked, it’s not going to be very much fun. At this age, they can bounce back and have a lot of fun.”

After starting practice in August and playing games each Saturday, the season comes to an end at Northern Arizona University’s Walkup Skydome on Saturday, November 4th. Only one can imagine what will go through the minds of these young kids when they step on a professional football field; but one thing is for sure, it will be an experience.

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“He (Tyler) is going to be on cloud nine, win or lose,” Blanchard said. “They are going to have a great time just being there. We’re excited about this for our kids.”