OLDSMAR – Plenty of children in the Oldsmar Falcons football program are out to win and win big, but there is another reason to spend hot summer nights running around in full equipment, waiting for the chance to hit other players without getting in trouble.
“I love to be rowdy,’’ said eighth-grader Max Grant. Max plays for the Falcons and their varsity football team. He isn’t sure where he’ll be playing high school football yet next year, but he likes being able to take out his aggressions on the football field. “I like to talk trash. It’s all part about being rowdy and not getting in trouble.’’
James Geel, 10, plays for the Falcons super-midget league team. He is a lot bigger than most 10-year-olds, and he knows it. He hasn’t even started thinking about high school yet, but he understands that, while it is fine to hit hard, winning is a big part of it.
“It’s fun to play when you are winning,” James said. “When you lose, it isn’t that much fun, but we don’t think about the hitting and the sweat when we win. That’s when we forget about everything else.”
Tony Wills is president and a coach of the Falcons program. He played college football and runs the league from top to bottom. The kids all know about his college football career, but, to Wills, it’s all about fun. You don’t hear a lot of screaming and yelling at a Falcons practice. The numbers on each team could be better, Wills said, but they are getting bigger each year.
“What makes us different is that we are trying to be about the kids,’’ Wills said. “We are trying to bring the fun back to the game.”
One thing Wills is concerned with is something football fans across the nation are worried about, and that is player safety. Concussions were the biggest story about football all spring, Wills knows that the game can be violent, but it is also part of the game. The younger kids in the Oldsmar program play flag football, but for the older kids getting ready for high school, the best thing to do is make it as safe as possible.
“Football has gotten a bad reputation because of the concussions,’’ Wills said. “We lost a couple of kids whose parents wanted to get them out of the game, but, for the most part, they have all come back. The important thing is that we are teaching kids how to hit within the rules.”
Wills said he also makes sure that anyone on an Oldsmar team gets plenty of chances to play.
“A lot of teams only let you play like five plays a game,” Max said. “Here, everyone gets about 25 plays a game, at least. It’s fun and it’s hard work, but everybody plays and everybody gets a lot of rest. We aren’t worried about getting hurt. It’s too much fun.’’
For more on the Oldsmar Falcons football and cheerleading programs, call (727) 421-9870.