Etzel helps youngsters keep the footballs flying

NEIGHBORS

August 03, 1994|By PAT BRODOWSKI

"These kids play hard and they win good," said John Etzel, whose love of football and children helps keep the game alive in North Carroll. "They don't lose so good," he said, laughing, "They're just like adults, I guess."

Mr. Etzel has seen a lot of wins and losses. He and his two boys have made the football fly in North Carroll Recreation Council football for seven years.

Now that his boys are beyond age 13, they've left the recreation council program to enter high school football.

"I started in 1988, and I know the football program was going strong before that," he recalls. "I think we've had it going since 1972. John Snell, the head of the football program, started in 1983."

In North Carroll, soccer registration usually knocks the socks off ZTC football. Easily 400 children sign up for soccer, said Mr. Etzel. Some years, football struggled with a dozen children per team.

"Football is getting bigger, but it'll never compete with soccer," said Mr. Etzel.

"What I find is that parents don't want their children to play a rough sport. They put them in soccer.

"But just as many kids get hurt in soccer. Then, when a [soccer player] signs up for freshman football, he's way behind."

Three teams are created, based on age and weight, intended to put boys of the same size together on the field.

Children 7 to 9 years old and weighing up to 90 pounds compose the youngest team. Ten- and 11-year olds, weighing up to 120 pounds, are the middle team.

The oldest team is made up of boys 12 and 13, weighing up to 150 pounds. This also means that children who surpass the weight limit are turned away from recreation council football.

This summer -- perhaps riding the crest of Canadian Football League fever -- about 100 children showed up for sign-ups July 21.

"We had a really good turnout this year," said Mr. Etzel. "All teams have at least 25 or 30 players. Anyone else who wants to play, ask about the waiting list in case some drop off the team." Practice started yesterday.

Fundamentals of tackling and blocking lead to game strategy. The level of play increases with the older age groups, until the older players are soundly prepared for high school teams.

Mr. Etzel's sons, John and Eric, started playing recreation council football in 1988.

Both now play at North Carroll High School. John plays junior varsity, and Eric is on the freshman team.

"The rec council program, I think, helped them enough to make that transition to high school football," Mr. Etzel said. "They've got the fundamentals."

As part of the Carroll County Football League, North Carroll teams match up with similar three-team groups from Sykesville, Winfield and Westminster. The three teams from each of the four areas play home and away games. To fill a 10-game schedule, home or away games are played with Baltimore County teams from Reisterstown, Perry Hall, Arbutus or Lutherville.

The winner of each age division plays for the Carroll County Football League Championship.

Each team has its own cheerleaders, who are the same age as the players.

"I really enjoy helping kids," says Mr. Etzel. "Somebody has got to help these kids learn sports, and I believe if you're able to help out, it gives back to the community."

You can catch the first North Carroll game at the home field, Christmas Tree Park in Manchester, on the second Saturday in September. The youngsters play every Saturday after that, at home or away.

Games start at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., with the older players last on the field.

To join North Carroll football or cheerleading squads, call: for cheerleaders, Nancy Hackler, 374-5268; for football, ages 7 to 9, Tom Raynor, 239-2266; for football, ages 10 and 11, George Suter, 239-7145; for football, ages 12 and 13, John Etzel, 239-2214.

*

If you're like my husband, Bob, and myself, the sudden -- and often wacky -- inspiration of children is priceless.

Understanding their inspiration sometimes takes patience. Before verbal skills develop, reasons behind actions are sometimes lost. We'll probably never know why Emily tossed her socks into the toilet, stuck all our address labels to chair legs, or attached a string to a shoe box and called it her "dog."

Now that both Adam and Emily can speak and write words, we're given a new window into their inspiration.

Last winter, while we bounced along a farm lane, the sight of sheep on a hilly meadow became a brief poem spoken by our son, Adam. Only the gift of words would allow Adam to show us how sheep look: like pillows with feet.

Let's share this inspiration, we thought. So Adam read his poem to his first-grade class. Then we sent a copy to Highlights for Children magazine.

A nice thank you letter from the magazine told us hundreds of wonderful poems are received every month. His would join the pile.

We'd forgotten the poem until last week. Adam opened a second letter from Highlights.

They've decided to publish his poem in October.

We find our children's inspiration to be priceless. Now, other children and parents will find it, too.

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