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USA Football now watching over local programs

Top priorities include more training for coaches, focus on injuries
By: Robbie Enos/Roseville Press Tribune Correspondent
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Many fans of the NFL sat through an unbearable summer, as the 2011 season for America’s most famous professional football league was at risk due to a lockout, a battle between millionaires and billionaires.

Luckily for youth football fans, parents and coaches, no such lockout exists, and the sound of pads colliding was in the air throughout the region Saturday.

The Granite Bay Junior Grizzlies played host to a jamboree with Roseville, Del Campo and Grant attending. Everyone from midgets to mighty mites, from players to cheerleaders, and parents to coaches was in action preparing for the regular season, which kicks off Saturday.

“The purpose for (the jamboree) is to certify all of our football players and cheerleaders,” said Tiffany Jones, Granite Bay president. “All the football players weigh in, and our cheerleaders are certified. And it’s really just a day of practice, for our players to get ready for the season.”

The season begins with a new flavor, as local organizations will now operate under USA Football. Jones said the new direction would allow for big improvements in the operations.

“USA Football is the only football organization that is endorsed by the NFL,” Jones said. “This league is brand new this season to this area. It is the only USA Football league in the Northern California area. What it offers is increased training for our coaches and our players.”

On the field, coaches were preparing for a new season with a new group of players. Youth football preparation requires considerable patience and caution.
With the new USA Football training and the rise of awareness toward concussions, safety tops the list of priorities.

“All of our coaches go through concussion awareness,” said Duane Baker, head of football operations for the Junior Grizzlies. “They all order concussion material and carry it with them so that they know all the signs and symptoms of concussions and what to do with them. We also have an EMT on staff, from the first game to the last game.”

Coaches must take a different approach at the younger levels as well. Because many players are just starting to play football, coaches need to slowly prepare them for the physical toll and collision aspects of the game.

“It’s a very progressive process,” said Kevin Kraft, head coach for the Granite Bay midget team. “We very gradually introduce them to some close contact drills, just two to three feet apart, and then build from that to the point where they are confident enough to engage in high-speed contact.”

The fast-paced jamboree allowed for a rapid pace of play in a seven-hour span. Roseville was sharp in the running game, working the ball between the tackles and focusing on blocking assignments.

Granite Bay relied on offensive efficiency, running the organization’s fly offense. The fly is used by all levels to ensure a smooth transition to the high school level. The midget team made few mistakes, taking advantage of open space outside.

“They did excellent. I was very proud of them,” Kraft said of his team. “They only had two weeks to prepare. There’s still a lot to get ready for, and I think they did great.”

SATURDAY’S SEASON OPENERS

Granite Bay at Woodland
Roseville at Nevada Union
Woodcreek at Ponderosa
Oakmont at Folsom