Rec dept. is to administer Trojans youth football in fall

PLAYING AROUND

February 16, 2003|By LOWELL E. SUNDERLAND

YOUTH FOOTBALL in the county is turning, it seems, into a Department of Recreation and Parks thing.

The agency has agreed to take over administration of the Howard County Trojans, one of three remaining independent youth football programs, this fall. That means the rec department, besides having youth age-group teams participating in a league with a distinct, if not exclusive, county flavor, now will operate three of the six county-based programs.

Last fall, the department played a leadership role in establishing a 300-player football program in the western part of the county, as well as a new youth league. And last month, the department and the Elkridge Youth Organization agreed to establish a football program in the northeastern corner of the county that will begin play this fall.

The Trojans, with players drawn from all parts of the county, are one of the two oldest youth football programs here. They spun off the Columbia Bulldogs, who continue independent operation, in 1990. The Bulldogs evolved in the early 1980s from the original Columbia Optimist "Cobra" program. The Optimists have long since separated from all youth sports programs.

The Columbia Community Church Warriors and a program for boys who exceed most youth teams' weight limits also continue to operate independently.

Jeff Kagan, a Columbia resident who last fall coached a Trojans team of 8- to 10-year-olds and is the Trojans' secretary, said the club made the move because there was "a need for more involvement in organization."

That came about, Kagan said, with a "changing of the guard" before last season that saw Trojans co-founder Ray Page decide to step down after 11 years of active leadership.

Page, who got involved in youth football locally 30 years ago with the Optimists, said he initiated talks with the rec department about a year ago. He knew he would be stepping back, he said, and was concerned that "too many people were interested more in winning and losing than in teaching football."

Having the rec department administer registration and club books, Page said, along with separation from the national tournament-oriented Pop Warner national youth football organization a year ago, will help retain the club's initial focus.

Added Kagan, a former New Jersey high school player who has lived in the county two years and said he sought out the Trojans for his two sons before deciding where to buy a house: "We have a whole new board in place, and I think it's very, very encouraging for the organization."

Among other elements of its programs, Kagan said, the Trojans will continue their scholar-athlete emphasis, which stresses the importance of education as well as playing and tries to honor members whose grade point averages exceed 3.0.

Along the sidelines

Quotable: From Herb Nicholls, one of the Columbia Basketball Association's longtime leaders, in a conversation that brushed onto talk about public money for recreation being cut and restrained so much in the past couple of years:

"We always seem to have money to build new prisons and for more police, but we don't want to spend money at the front end, where it could do a lot of good in keeping young people occupied doing positive things."

Notable: From USA Hockey, in a packet of instructions for coaches that accompanies its new emphasis on cross-ice, small-sided games for neophyte players (we reported on the Howard County Huskies' involvement this winter). These are coaching tips applicable to any youth sport; just substitute "ball" or "stick" or "bat" for "pucks":

"Give, if necessary, short instruction. Never give instructions to players who have pucks - they can't concentrate on what you say. Show one thing at a time. Children learn better by seeing and then imitating. Show what they should do instead of what they shouldn't do - in other words, use a positive example."

Also: "All practices should be upbeat, high energy, and most importantly, fun. It's important that each player leaves the rink each day with a smile on [his or her] face."

Correctable: We simply fumbled - no other explanation - a note a couple of columns back about Howard County Striders President Mick Slonaker's new duties with the Road Runners Club of America. He is eastern regional director.

Call the writer at 410-332-6525 or send e-mail to lowell.sunderland@baltsun.com.

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