Learning to compete
September is almost over and that means that the fall football season will soon be drawing to a close. The East Grand Middle School (EGMS) Cubs have been very busy for the past several weeks with evening practices on the District’s auxiliary practice field and games interspersed throughout the week.
This year the Cubs are led by Head Coach Darrell Woods, Art teacher at Granby Elementary School. Working alongside Woods this year are assistant coaches Richard Cimino, Lance Schofield and Larry Roubidoux. The team is also assisted by Deno Kaplanis who works specifically with the team’s kickers.
Woods and the team’s assistant coaches have had their hands full this fall with 39 young student athletes participating on the team, including three girls. The team has 11 sixth-graders participating, 16 seventh-graders and 12 eighth-graders.
Coach Woods explained the number of participants on the team each year varies throughout the season due to kids going out from injuries and other students who join the team late in the season.
The students are broken down into an A-Team, consisting primarily of eighth-graders and some seventh-grade students with a strong grasp of the fundamentals of football, and a B-Team, consisting primarily of seventh and sixth-grade students. The teams both have an equal number of games, seven, scheduled for the 2016 season.
The Cub’s season kicked off with a scrimmage game against West Grand. Since then the youngsters have traveled to places like Idaho Springs and Walden while hosting West Grand at home for an official game and competing against the likes of Estes Park and Craig. The Cubs typically play 11-man football but because they often go up against teams from smaller schools they will occasionally play games as an eight-man squad. Shifting the number of players on the field changes several dynamics of the game but Coach Woods said he feels the experience is good for the young players, “It’s better to have a game then not play at all,” he said.
For Woods the primary focus of the season, and of coaching junior high athletes, is to instill core principles: a strong work ethic and an understanding of the importance of teamwork and being a member of a team. “We talk about how they are expected to work,” Woods said. “We talk about coming to practice and then going home and doing homework… I think one of our goals is to get the kids out and enjoying it (football/sports) so they want to take it more seriously and play in high school; any sport in high school.”
Woods highlighted how important it is for young kids just starting to compete to actually have fun playing sports. “We are really trying to get them to enjoy being out for sports,” said Woods. “Hopefully they have a good time with their teammates and the camaraderie. I tell the kids down at the elementary school, ‘middle school is the time to try everything. Try sports like football and see if you like it.”
Woods sees great value in team sports for the social development of youngsters, pointing out how sports provide unique interactions between children that rarely occur in classroom settings.
Working with the junior higher students is both rewarding and challenging. The young children often have an unmatched level of excitement, but, as any parent of a 12-year-old will tell you, it can be difficult keeping them focused on the “here-and-now”.
“A lot of it is about the kids starting to understand what it means to be in a team and support the team,” Woods said. “They are trying to learn the game. We are keeping them focused on what is import.”
Woods said one of his greatest joys is seeing the development that occurs in students when they play over the course of all three years in junior high. “That is when I get excited,” he said. “I think about how they are going to be playing when they are in high school.”
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