Jennifer Sims is thrilled her 11-year-old son is learning a lot more than proper blocking techniques on the football field.
Over the last three years, Kadin Sims has learned about responsibility, teamwork and good sportsmanship -- essential skills on the road to adulthood.
“We all have to get along as adults and work as a team,” said Sims. “Good sportsmanship is an important piece of his football experience. This is Kadin's third year and I see him being more responsible, being more aware, and using critical thinking to solve problems together as a team. Football has been a very positive experience for him.”
Coeur d'Alene Junior Tackle football emphasizes sportsmanship with coaches, players and parents, said Bob Fitzgerald, president of the Coeur d'Alene Junior Tackle Board.
“We hold our coaches, our players and our parents to the highest standards when it comes to sportsmanship and fair play,” said Fitzgerald. “Our goal is to continue to make things positive on the field and off.”
That means no trash talking, no name calling, no insults, no disrespect toward officials, opposing players or coaches in victory or defeat, said board member Dan Franks.
“Life is like that,” said Franks. “Football challenges you both physically and mentally. Our players are learning ethics, morals and doing what is right — even when you're losing.”
Luke Stavros, who coaches the 8th grade Coeur d'Alene Steelers, said, “We teach family values, accountability, and in the end we must win and lose with class.”
That can be a challenge when professional athletes are shown trash talking on and off the field through social media channels.
“What the kids see on TV is a reflection of individualism,” said Stavros. “A lot of kids only watch the highlights or follow social media. It takes 11 players at one time working together towards a common goal to have success — not one or two! That's why we celebrate together and it's always positive. We win together and we lose together.”
The heightened focus on sportsmanship stems from a series of conflicts in the past.
Coeur d'Alene Junior Tackle is committed to sportsmanship, player safety and good football.
“We want to ensure our coaches are coaching and behaving the right way,” said Fitzgerald. “We want to be good examples.”
Safety is a top priority for Coeur d'Alene Junior Tackle. The club has invested big dollars in the program. It has purchased helmets within the last two years that are designed to reduce the risk of injury. All coaches and team managers are required to complete USA Heads Up certification to be qualified to coach or manage a team. Coaches meet with the board to review these topics during the off-season.
The popular sports club will play teams from Sandpoint, Rathdrum, Kellogg, Spirit Lake and Missoula, a new addition this season. Coeur d'Alene Junior Tackle's third and fourth grade teams will also play teams from Post Falls.
A jamboree to kick off the season will be held Aug. 31 with teams from all leagues at locations across North Idaho. All league teams will have full season schedules.
Coeur d'Alene Junior Tackle prides itself for costing only $125 to participate in grades 5-8 and $75 grades 3-4. This includes helmet, mouthpiece, shoulder pads, game jersey and T-shirt.
“We want to continue to make football a positive life experience. We won't turn any kid away,” said Fitzgerald. “Sometimes there's a boy or girl who is at risk and needs football to keep from going down the wrong path.”
Coeur d'Alene Junior Tackle has an estimated 600 players in its program (grades 3-8) on 33 teams. Player signups are going on now.
Practices start Aug. 21 at various locations in Coeur d'Alene.
Alice Westray said her son Jack, 11, will be playing for the third consecutive year.
“They end every practice with a cheer,” she said. “Good sportsmanship is important to me. My son's coach is teaching my son about respecting each other and that no one is above the team.”
--Written by Marc Stewart, Director of Sponsored Content