CALEDONIA — The buzz word for Caledonia pee wee football is “safety.”
Teaming up with USA Football, the league will have a new look when the first round of registration takes place Saturday at Ola J. Picket Park. Registration will be held each Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. through Aug. 10. On average, between 70 and 75 youngsters, ages 7-12, participate each season with the Caledonia pee wee league.
“It is a veteran league with a new look,” league director Jason Chrest said. “We are moving to the North Mississippi Tackle Football League, which includes 10 teams, from places like Hamilton, Hatley, Mantachie and Smithville. We will also partner with USA Football this season. We are the first team above the Jackson area to do that.”
The USA Football organization exists to bolster safety efforts at the entry levels of the game. The organization’s main focus is a Heads Up Football, which is an initiative between the National Football League, several colleges and several youth leagues around the nation. Heads Up Football is designed to make the game as safe as possible for the young participants involved.
“We are taking the big step to get all the kids as safe as we can,” Chrest said. “This is a great relief for the parents. Parents will be happier and kids will be safer in our program.”
A total of 63 teams participate in the USA Football program. The main participants are the youth leagues in the Jackson area, Hattiesburg area and along the gulf coast.
As part of the USA Football program, a fundamentals clinic will be held each Saturday during the registration periods. On Aug. 10, a special Heads Up Football clinic will be held with James Sliger presenting a program on youth football safety, including a demonstration of techniques designed to help make the players safer during live contact. The clinic will include a look at properly sized equipment, as well as instruction for both players, parents and coaches on the proper techniques and fundamentals for tackling.
“We want to get the parents involved, so they will know what to do and how to keep an eye on their child,” Chrest said. “This season, coaches will be better equipped to deal with all situations. A player safety coach will be on hand to observe all practice sessions and games. The player safety coach will be able to advise the coach what to do in injury situations, such as concussions.”
With a new venture in place, a financial cost can be assumed. However, the cost will not be reflected in higher registration fees.
“The parents are very pleased that we are going in this direction,” Chrest said. “Every coach will have to be certified now and there are some other additional costs. We make that money back through reduced charges for insurance and stuff like that. The folks at USA Football have gone out of their way to welcome us in and to make sure we are all working together to make this a fun and safe activity for all the participants involved.”
For additional information about Caledonia pee wee football, visit the league’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/fedsfootball or contact Chrest by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.