August 1, 2003 at 10:20 a.m.
This past spring, the Chisago Lakes youth football world was turned upside down after the Chisago Lakes youth non-school football program was given the go ahead. The debate has been raging ever since.
The program will consist of two teams, one from the seventh grade level while the other will be an eighth grade football team. Each player will have the choice to participate in either that program for close to $300, or play Middle School football. One or the other, not both.
“Last year the numbers at the Middle School level were at 70 kids at seventh grade and 50 kids at eighth grade,” commented Weiss. Here, we can take 20 kids, put them on a non-school team and that gives them the opportunity to play more and get better. That way, with less kids in school ball, the school coaches can concentrate more on coaching instead of organizing.”
The seed was planted last fall when several parents wanted to find another outlet to get their kids more playing time. However, while the plan has been well received by some, others have voiced their concern.
That list includes coaches from the Chisago Lakes Middle School. All of the Middle School coaches reached declined to comment.
“One parent wanted to get his kid an opportunity to play more because he’s on the small side. He thought that his kid would just be lost in the shuffle with 60-70 other kids,” remarked Weiss. “Parents understand that kids need more playing time. The Middle School coaches wanted to make sure that their program was going to be able to fully function and I don’t see that being a problem at all. This will not be a collection of 15-20 of the best players. The skill level will be across the board.”
While skill level is one of the arguments, the major concern is if the program becomes a success, where that will leave the Middle School football program. St. Francis started its own non-school program a few years ago only to lead to the cancellation of the school program. Weiss is determined not to let that happen here.
“The situation in St. Francis arose because the coaches were promoting only one program and they were pushing their kids in one direction. What I have to do is to make sure I communicate both sides of it. Two quality programs that are in place to help the kids get better. I have to make sure that one program is not being endorsed more than the other.”
“Middle School football is a big part of middle school athletics,” Weiss continued. “If the numbers were low enough, I suppose the program could be cut but that’s not what I want see. Playing school football is, and will always be, a lot more convenient because practices are right after school and games are during the week. In this league, we have practices at night and it takes a lot more commitment from both the parents and kids. To me, that convenience goes along way.”
The movement is growing rapidly. Blaine and Anoka are just two of the teams that the Wildcats will play as a part of the North Metro Middle School Football Program. Forest Lake is expected to follow after interest in the league has popped up there. Despite the popularity, Weiss promises that the program will be re-evaluated after the season.
“I think you have to re-evaluate it each year just like with anything else. I believe it’s going to be a positive but there is a lot of concern,” remarked Weiss. “I think that’s good. People should ask questions and with change, there is always a lot of what- ifs. I think it’s going to be a win-win situation for both programs.”