The best way to get a child interested in something is to start them young – letting them develop their interest in an activity as they grow.
North Vermillion has done that for several years with a youth football league that includes starting a “Peanuts” division where the players are from kindergarten age through second grade.
The group is made up of about 15-20 kids (down from previous years’ 30+ due to the threat of Covid-19) who learn the basics about football and team play and then get to scrimmage on Saturdays.
Started about 18 years ago by Jr Martin, the kids have always played on Saturday, but there have been so many players that the coaches decided to play a “Red and White” scrimmage (now known as Wednesday Night Lights) to deal with the fact there were often too many kids to get much playing time on the weekend.
According to Jeff Edney, a eleven-year coach in the program, and Brian Crabtree, the Falcons varsity football coach, the players learn basics like safe head positioning when tackling, how to hand off the ball, stop on the whistle, three-point stance, being part of the team, sportsmanship and, lastly, do not do “bad” things.
The coaches have the kids line up and run plays with instruction on how to do them correctly.
Perhaps the best thing for Peanuts is that they get to interact with the North Vermillion high school football players.
It all started when the varsity dropped by the Peanuts’ Red and White scrimmage a few years ago after their own workout was over and it has grown to where the high schoolers now sit in the bleachers and eat pizza while watching the kids play the game.
In the final minutes of the Wednesday Night Lights scrimmage, the coaches let the youngsters line up and run plays against the high school team, which results in the kids “breaking tackles” or “bringing down a high school player” – much to the enjoyment of both groups.
North Vermillion continues to involve young students with the high school football team in several ways beyond just the youth football program.
They let elementary school students have breakfast with the team and then have a mini pep session before the players leave for class.
The school also has a Friday reading program that has high schoolers read to the elementary students.
Edney and Crabtree say that doing all this inspires the young kids by giving them role models to follow.
They note that it also benefits the football team by showing them that they have a responsibility to be good representatives of the school and the community.
Lastly, the two coaches say that Wednesday Nights Lights and the Peanut program are fun for all involved and that that is what is most important.