Sports

Lakewood Youth Football takes over middle school program

Football starts early this year at Lakewood Middle School.

Except it won't be at Lakewood Middle School, as the district turns over its football program to Lakewood Youth Football.

The community-run football program has been around for about 10 to 15 years, estimated club president Larry Franchimon, providing football fundamentals and playing opportunities for kids ages 6 to 14 years old.

But after both the middle school and senior level youth team split an already small pool of Lakewood athletes last season, organizers behind both groups got together to discuss a merger.

"The numbers were so small on both teams that it was difficult to field not just competitive teams, but teams that could play," said Lakewood High football coach Dan Teeter, who teaches at the middle school. "We realized that was something that wouldn't be good for either team."

Once the idea of combining the teams was on the table, it became a question of how to best serve the athletes. With some modifications to the Lakewood youth program, including the addition of Teeter to the organization's board, Lakewood administrators opted to end the middle school program.

One advantage was that the youth football program didn't rely on district funding, which meant it would be able to raise funds from within the community for things like newer and better equipment for players. Other advantages included more games and family-friendly Saturday game times. And Lakewood Youth Football adopts some of the policies typically associated with school football like guaranteed playing time, academic requirements and a no-cut roster.

The new Lakewood program also has a plan for low-income families worried about the expense of the new program. The team has several opportunities for players to earn sponsorships into the program and parents can have some costs waived by volunteering at games.

An organizational meeting for parents is scheduled for July 17, at 6 p.m., in the Lakewood High School stadium. A football camp is scheduled for July 21 and practice begins July 28.

"We will take kids at any time," said Franchimon. "We don't want to turn away any kid that wants to play football."

The team's web site is available at www.eteamz.com/lyfa2000.

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