Two of the tackle football teams sponsored by Pahrump Youth Sports are in danger of not making it to the season because of a lack of players, and time is running out.
“For the 7U team, I need 15 kids by the 11th. I have seven,” said Johnny O’Neal, president of Pahrump Youth Sports. “For the 14U, I have six kids.”
The organization is trying hard to get the word out, fearing the kids who signed up for those teams will lose the opportunity to play.
Larry Williams, who coaches the 7-year-olds, said playing football offers more than the obvious benefits from physical activity and being part of a team.
“One thing it does at an early age is teach them to have goals,” he said. “You start out wanting to win a game, and once that’s accomplished and they see that they can do that, you go on from there. You put the idea of setting goals into their minds at an early age.
They gain self-discipline, self-awareness. You learn to have discipline, follow rules and be guided by people other than their parents. There are so many benefits when they’re seven years old from learning how to play a sport. It can be a life-changing thing for the rest of their lives.”
Of course, building skills comes with the territory.
“It definitely gets them ready for the next level,” O’Neal said. “We’re trying to build Pahrump into a powerhouse football team at the high school level, and we need to do that by getting them out here when they’re young.”
Williams stressed that getting kids on the field while they’re young helps them play the game the proper way.
“Kids don’t learn how to play the game right from day one, then they end up usually getting hurt,” Williams said. “With us, we teach them how to do everything right from the start. With the little guys is where it really starts. If they start right they will play right their entire football career.
“I know there are a lot of problems with neck injuries and using the helmets, but that’s one thing I preach to my kids. You don’t use your helmet to tackle, you use your arms and your legs.”
Fear of injury always has been a worry for parents, but Williams said that worry is often overstated, especially for the younger kids.
“I’ve had mothers in this town tell me, ‘My kid is so small, if one of those bigger kids hits him he’s going to hurt him,’ and that’s really not the case,” said Williams, in his seventh year of coaching youth football. “There’s an old adage: The bigger they are, the harder they fall. I’m a little short fella, and I played pee-wee football, I played Pop Warner, I played middle school, I played four years of high school football.”
And yet, the organization is not just about progress on the football field, according to O’Neal.
“We really stress the school side of it, too,” he said. “We want them to understand how important it is to get good grades as well as be a good athlete.”
O’Neal is hopeful enough kids will turn out by the end of this week to keep all of the teams on the field.
“The other three (tackle) teams are looking good and the flag teams are looking good, but we are short on numbers,” he said. “For 14U we have three, but for flag you only need five to make a team.”
What will happen if the rosters do not fill up?
“I will put the 7U tackle kids on the 9U tackle team, and I will refund the money to the kids on 14U or see if they want to play flag,” O’Neal said, noting the odds of a 7-year-old getting much playing time on a team filled with 9-year-olds are fairly remote, even for an organization that seeks to get everyone on the field. ”They would just be getting some practice time in more than likely.”
If they do get enough players to fill out all of the rosters, Williams said the coaches are ready for them.
“I put my heart and soul into practice, and I put my heart and soul into a game,” he said. “I want to teach the kids and give them an opportunity to play.”
O’Neal said the easiest way to join a football team is simply to come out to a practice and get signed up.
Practices are held weeknights from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Petrack Park, on the field behind the firehouse. Games, which start in September, are on Saturdays.
Contact Sports Editor Tom Rysinski at firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter:@pvtimes