WCHS football coach Tom Moore says he wants to pump up the volume when it comes to youth football in Warren County.
He realizes having a powerful high school football team starts long before students enter ninth grade. It starts when boys are 7 or 8 years old in the youth league and it continues when many of them play at Nunley Stadium for the first time as a member of the middle school Pioneers.
My first job as a full-time sports reporter was for the Gallatin News Examiner. The highlight of my stay there was when the Green Wave football team finished 15-0 and won the state championship in 1992.
Gallatin head football coach Calvin Short received much of the credit. But it was no coincidence coach Short retired the same year as coach Edd Martin, a man who led the Gallatin Middle School football team for over 30 years.
Coach Martin did a great job getting players fundamentally ready to play high school football. It didn’t hurt that the two coaches ran the same offensive and defensive schemes so players had the same playbook for years.
No wonder they won a state title.
So coach Moore is looking to beef up youth football here in Warren County, using the logic it will trickle up and help the high school program. It’s definitely the right move.
The topic of youth sports is an interesting source of conversation. I remember the first year I covered youth baseball at McMinnville Civic Center in 1995.
At that time, youth baseball and softball were thriving. There were 15 teams, yes 15, in the boys Junior League. In the boys Training League, there were 14 teams. On the girls side, there were 13 teams in the Junior League.
That’s a combined 42 teams in just three leagues. If you figure 10 players to a team, that’s 420 kids playing ball.
So let’s fast forward to 2017, this summer. The translation isn’t exactly equivalent because participation is so low today, kids now play in leagues for three years instead of two.
The boys Training League and boys Junior League each have seven teams for a total of 14. The girls Junior League has five teams. That’s a combined 19 teams in three leagues. At 10 players to a team, that’s 190 kids playing ball.
In the course of 22 years, there are 230 fewer kids playing ball at the Civic Center in just those three leagues. That doesn’t even count the Babe Ruth League which had nine teams in 1995, some 90 kids, and doesn’t exist today.
Baseball has long been the flagship sport at WCHS. Strong youth leagues at the Civic Center have been a huge reason why. I wonder how lower participation may impact high school baseball in years to come.