Chris Edwards

It starts with the little ones

Posted October 8, 2013

As I’ve traveled around the eastern part of our state the last several years to call various high school football games I sometimes wonder, "What made some of these programs so consistent?"

For example, year after year Garner is at the top of its conference, and while it starts with a solid coaching staff and other various aspects, I think a lot of what makes a program successful year in and year out is a solid feeder program, and I’m not talking about the junior varsity team.

I’m talking about Pop Warner and other youth football leagues.

Don’t misconstrue what I am saying; junior varsity football is a tremendous tool and an excellent way to build a program. What I am saying is that in order to be a successful program you need kids who learn the game at a young age where they can begin to craft their skill set to compete when they reach the middle school and high school level.

We at have talked at length about Knightdale and how they are now contenders (and maybe the frontrunners) in the Greater Neuse River this season. One of the reasons why is they’ve begin to cultivate their talent and the kids have started to buy in to what the coaching staff is telling them.

When I was calling their game Friday night against Clayton, Knightdale had dozens of youngsters from their youth football program stream across the field at halftime, in hopes of one day being the next Knightdale football star.

Youth football leagues teach more than just the fundamentals of football, but life lessons like good academic skills, community involvement and learning how to become a productive citizen of your community.

This was taken directly from the Pop Warner web site, “The mission of Pop Warner is to enable young people to benefit from participation in team sports and activities in a safe and structured environment. Through this active participation, Pop Warner programs teach fundamental values, skills and knowledge that young people will use throughout their lives. Pop Warner seeks to provide fun athletic learning opportunities for children, while emphasizing the importance of academic success. Specifically, Pop Warner seeks to familiarize players and spirit participants with the fundamentals of football, cheerleading and dance. Pop Warner strives to inspire youth, regardless of race, creed or national origin, to practice the ideals of sportsmanship, scholarship and physical fitness.”

So if you want a successful high school program, get involved with the local youth football leagues, let the high school coach come and talk to the kids, let them see what it’s like to play on the field that maybe one day they’ll have a chance to play.

But even if that youngster doesn’t make as the next football superstar, he’ll have valuable lessons that he learned through playing athletics at a young age.


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  • Homerun4thgle Oct 10, 2013

    I love the fact that this article was written because alot can be said of Pop Warner football. There are "GOOD" and "BAD" aspects of it. Usually the "BAD" is politics between governing body and the organizations, coaches recruiting (stealing) players from other teams and "Daddy Ball". The "COST" of Pop Warner is the biggest factor that keeps kids out. City football is cheaper and we lose alot of good players to price. But remember with "CITY BALL" you get what you pay for. Old and dated equipment even if the equipment is inspected just because it passes does not mean it is the best for "kids". The "GOOD" outweighs it all if you have an organization thats about the kids! After a hard fought season the bonds you create with the kids are "Priceless". It's wonderful to see more High Schools are connecting with local Pop or EWFL organizations.

  • uncw1 Oct 10, 2013

    (all "these" years) (due to "their" foundation). ("reap" the benefits)
    Sorry for the typo's! Spell check has spoiled me :)

  • uncw1 Oct 10, 2013

    I feel like Garner has been so sucessful all thes years due to thir foundation. (Pop Warner football). My son is part of the Knightdale Dragons and he is really enjoying it. I think the Knightdale High and East Wake High programs will reep the benefits down the road of having a solid foundation in place. KHS was very smart in recognizing the youth football in the area.

  • Coach C Oct 9, 2013

    I'm a coach in the Knightdale Knight youth program. Over the past 15 years we have developed many young men into great players and people. Often times I'll find myself watching football friday and seeing many of my old players being highlighted by the show. Our players are spread out through several schools in the area (Enloe, East Wake, Garner, Southeast, Wake Forest, Heritage and Knightdale) to name a few. We teach them how to win as a youth and they carry it on with them to the high school level. The Knights youth program is one of if not the best programs in the area. Every team in our program has made the league (East Wake Football League) playoffs every year since 1998. During that span we have claimed 15 league titles.