Everything Bremerton: Pee Wee Football 101

The official opening of the Pee Wee Football season was Aug. 2.

So begins the grueling pace of practice five days a week until school starts. Games every weekend from early September until the end of October for the regular season and well into November for those fortunate enough to make the playoffs. My son’s D-string for Warren Avenue made it in the past two years, winning the championship undefeated in 2008 and placing second in 2009. Go Knights!

For those of you who are not fortunate enough to be familiar with any of the local Pee Wee organizations, especially the football programs, here is a nutshell version of how everything works. Which “string” the kids play on depends upon their age and where their birth date falls. Where they play, for which organization, depends upon residency. Everybody has their territories. All clubs must keep photo copies of age verification on file and copies of utility bills for proof of residence of each player. There is an extensive rule book that governs the organizations and it is consulted frequently. The first two weeks of the season are spent on conditioning in soft clothes with no contact except to the stuffed bags strategically positioned by the coaches during many of the drills. Uniforms and protective gear are given out at the end of the two weeks and then the much anticipated full contact between players begins.

Oh yes, it is all hyped up big talk and fun times on the practice field until the first player is down on the ground crying for his mommy. Being confronted for the first time with the visual and audio reality that full contact means, well, full contact, comes as quite a shock to the average 7- to 8-year-old. The adults on hand can practically see and hear the wheels turning as the boys process this confidence-shattering turn of events.

A whole host of emotions plays out on the screen of small faces as the realization that what is occurring on the field goes against every grain of their limited lifetime of behavioral training and most of the rules they know in the outside world. A world where they are constantly reminded that you don’t hit, don’t push, don’t hurt other people, get off the ground, stop getting dirty, no grabbing and so on by the ever present adults in their lives.

Fear sets in and the sweat begins to run as it dawns on them that in previous situations, if anyone causes a kid to be on the ground crying that means only one thing. Somebody is in BIG trouble. Almost as one, the sea of little faces turn to the adults on hand waiting, with breath held, for the judgment of the situation to be voiced and the correctional sentence to be handed out to the guilty party. Eyes widen with great surprise as the mother of the kid on the ground yells, “Get up Timmy and shake it off. I don’t see any blood gushing. Stop that blubbering. There’s no crying in football.” While the grandfather of the kid who made the tackle yells, “Great hit Bobby! Way to take him all the way down.”

With good coaching on the field and frequent follow through by the adults at home, the pint size players are able to adjust through the next series of practices and work out the difference between what is acceptable on the football field and what is acceptable in the rest of the world.

Local Pee Wee organizations are volunteer run and community supported. They instill values, skills and team-building skills to kids outside of the school and the home. They also provide a diverse selection of role models. For that I am eternally grateful. I hope you will join with me this season as I occasionally use my column to write about the Pee Wees. Until then, let’s play ball.

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