Registration is now open for boys and girls in the Chugiak-Eagle River area that want to learn the fundamentals of football by participating in a league in which winning is more than just then numbers on the scoreboard.
The Boys and Girls Club-Alaska program – including the Eagle River clubhouse – is gearing up for its third season this fall of its renewed football league for kids in grades three through eight. In addition to teams being fielded from the Anchorage clubhouses, teams from the Matanuska Valley are being added to the league.
Unlike other youth football leagues in which individual player development and the team’s record at the end of the season may take more precedence, the Boys and Girls Club program does encourage competition and the joy of winning while placing a great deal of emphasis on skills development and fun, Dave Wolfe said.
He describes himself as the “self-appointed” director for the program in Chugiak-Eagle River.
He is passionate about reviving the Boys and Girls Club league that is designed to give players of all abilities the opportunity to develop their skills.
“We instill in our coaches that we do not use the term ‘minimum play players’ with any of the kids on our teams,” Wolfe said, noting that in other leagues better skilled players may get more game time versus the guidelines for Boys and Girls club of giving each player as much time as possible. “We don’t put that label on any kid. That pretty much is not a positive motivating factor. Our goal is for every kid to have a starting position on the field. That might be on the kick-off team, but they will have a job assignment they will have to learn and have to do well and learn to be part of the team.”
The Boys and Girls Club league offers three divisions based similar to how soccer sets up its divisions: U-10 (ages less than 10), U-12 (ages 10 and 11) and U-14 (ages 12 and 13). Wolfe knows that some kids in eighth grade are 14 and the league will consider on a case by case basis allowing an exception.
The team from the Eagle River clubhouse already has kids on the roster for each division, but has room for more. If enough kids sign up, Wolfe said the local area could support a team for kids in the Chugiak High School attendance boundary and the same for Eagle River High School. In Anchorage and in the Mat-Su Valley, the high school attendance boundaries are used to place kids on Boys and Girls Club teams. The same applies to other parts of the state and in the Lower 48.
Last season, the Boys and Girls Club team from Eagle River had just enough kid players to field a team. Wolfe’s goal is to increase registration for the 2017 season which begins with practices on July 24 at Tom Huffer, Sr., Football Stadium at Chugiak High School. The youth league takes the training field after the high school team finishes its practice.
He is not looking to recruit players from other youth football leagues. They are welcome to the Boys and Girls Club league. Nor is he criticizing other leagues, he said. Instead, he is promoting the participation in football to kids that yes, want to compete and win, but also want an experience in which fun, improvement and skill mastery is just as important.
With the 2014 folding of the Mat-Su Youth Football Association, a hole in youth sports was left not only in the Valley but also in the Chugiak-Eagle River from where the MYFA league drew players as well.
Wolfe’s sons who are now graduated from high school and “doing life” as he called it, played in the MYFA league in the early 2000s, he said. It was a better fit for them. MYFA played on Saturdays just as the Boys and Girls Club teams do. He liked having Sunday reserved as a family day. He knows other families share that concern.
When Wolfe learned of MYFA shutting down, he approached the Boys and Girls Club to renew its football program that had fallen to the wayside. Interest was there; the equipment was available and the Boys and Girls Club started up again in the fall of 2015.
For $325, kids playing in the Boys and Girls Club league get insurance to cover any injuries that may occur during games and practices plus jersey, shoulder pads and helmet. Scholarships are available.
“If money is the issue and a kid wants to play, we will figure that out,” Wolfe said. “We don’t want a kid to miss playing on account of family finances.”
The other expense is purchase of pants ($30) and cleats and a mouth guard. Those items are just too personalized for the league to maintain supply.
“The Boys and Girls Club has a huge, really well-maintained supply of high quality equipment,” Wolfe said. “These helmets are of the highest safety rating that money can buy.”
Boys and Girls Club also uses the same safety guidelines and standards used in the National Football League regarding concussions, Wolfe said.
He notes that injuries in the Boys and Girls Club league have been very few, but league officials require that a doctor who has completed concussion training is on site at each game.
Wolfe encourages interested players to get registered as soon as possible. Players can make a $50 down payment to secure their position. Getting registered now will help Wolfe solidify plans he
is making with Roger Spackman, the CHS head football coach, to have CHS players help with a football camp in June for Boys and Girls Club players.
In the meantime, Wolfe has commitments from three local coaches with full football-coaching resumes: Jared O’Neill and Tony Roles – the first currently active duty with U.S. Air Force and the second retired U.S. Air Force now working in a civilian capacity on JBER, but with extensive experience coaching youth football – and Greg Ghramm, a CHS graduate who still holds the school’s record as its leading rusher.
Wolfe, who is also on active duty with the U.S. Air Force, is proud that military members in the community are stepping up to be active in the local community.
Eagle River is where Wolfe said he and his family plan to live once he retires from active duty.
He wants to invest in the local community – specifically in a program that can act as a funnel to teach local youth the fundamentals of football to prepare them for high school play.
“There is a reason why Soldotna has won 49 games straight in high school play,” Wolfe said. “It is because of the tremendous youth program in that area that is training these kids. We can create the same thing here in Chugiak-Eagle River.”
The Chugiak-Eagle River team’s nickname is, “The Mustangs.” Home games will be played at CHS and Wolfe – who is the announcer at CHS high school games – plans to create a similar atmosphere for fans attending Boys and Girls Club games.
Editor’s Note: Learn more about the Boys and Girls Club Football League on Facebook at Chugiak-Eagle River Youth Football Boys and Girls Club. Register to play online at http://athletics.bgcalaska.org/. Phone Wolfe at 907-317-5195.