So your child wants to play football? What now? With all the questions you may have about the gridiron experience (particularly if you have never played before), you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed. Relax... this guide is intended to help apprehensive and inexperienced parents manage the process of signing up, equipping, developing, and maintaining a rookie football player for - or veteran newcomer to - the Sprayberry Jr Jackets.
As for the questions…
What is so appealing about football?
Aside from the sheer excitement of the compeititon on the field, football provides a lot more to adolescents. There is the friendship and camaraderie established by taking your lumps together in the hot sun on a shared mission. It is a kind of boot camp for strong, aggressive, and athletic young people.
There is the accomplishment of doing things, both physically and mentally, that you didn't know you could do. It's about having literal yardsticks, getting better, and seeing the results. It's about learning how to win... and how to lose.
In addition, not every player can possess exceptional speed, strength, power, endurance, knowledge, and leadership abilities, so different types of players are required for a team to be successful. The need for a diversity of talents makes football appealing to a variety of athletes who may also excel in other sports. For example, a track sprinter can make a good wide receiver, a wrestler can make a good lineman, and a soccer player can make a good kicker.
These are just a few of the appealing elements about football. Can't other sports teach the same things? Sure they can, but no other modern widely played sport, arguably other than hockey, is as much about toughness and force of will as American football.
Is my child old enough?
Sprayberry Jr Jackets football is open to all students (male and female) zoned to attend Sprayberry High School (including portions of students zoned for Daniell, McClesky, and Simpson Middle Schools in the Cobb County School District). Players can range from 4th Graders to 8th Graders for Fall seasons (4th-7th during Spring seasons), with teams formed at the 6th, 7th, and 8th Grade levels. Typically, those 10 years or older are eligible to play in the Georgia Middle School Athletic Association (GMSAA), formerly the North Georgia Football League (NGFL), the league in which the Sprayberry Jr Jackets are charter members.
Is my child big enough?
The GMSAA has no weight limits, so if your child is especially small (<4’5”, <50 lbs), weight-restricted little league football is recommended. In football, it is more a matter of “toughness” than of size, however, so account for this in your decision-making.
Is my child too inexperienced?
Many players start their football careers with the Sprayberry Jr Jackets, so rookies are welcomed! In fact, more than one-third of all Jr Jackets players in Fall 2010 were rookies.
Who will be supervising my child?
The Sprayberry Jr Jackets football program was founded in the 1980s and is affiliated with the Sprayberry High School Varsity Football Touchdown Club. The program is overseen by a paid Program Coordinator and is administered by a volunteer staff of three Team Administrators, a Parent Liaison, and a Sports Information Director. On-field coaching and instruction is provided by a screened and trained volunteer staff of 15-20 Coaches. There are no less than 12-15 authorized program personnel on-site at all practices and games.
Where and when will they practice and play games?
During the Fall season, Sprayberry Jr Jackets teams have two preseason events (jamborees, practice games) and 8 regular season games, followed by four weeks of post-season (if all goes well), for between 13 and 17 weeks of action. During the Spring season, there are three weeks of conditioning and contact involving two jamborees.
Unless otherwise announced, all practices will be held at the Sprayberry Sports Complex, encompassing Jim Frazier Stadium and surrounding practice fields. Usually, practices are held on the fields behind the stadium, but it is not unusual to use the game field for some practices. Practices are from 6:30-8:30 pm, four days per week (although five days per week is often the case for the Spring season, as well as for Preseason in the Fall), depending upon the preferences of coaching staffs. Parents are welcomed to stay and watch practices. Parking is free for Sprayberry Jr Jackets practices and home games (and usually for away games, too).
Unless otherwise announced, all home games (and jamborees) will be played at Sprayberry’s Jim Frazier Stadium. The new synthetic turf is very safe and does not require the use of different cleats than those used for natural grass fields. Away games (and jamborees) are played at any one of 38 other GMSAA sites across Cherokee, Cobb, Floyd, Forsyth, Fulton, and Paulding Counties. Generally, an away game should not take more than 30-45 minutes round-trip travel time. Other than the rare post-season play-in game or make-up game (which could be played mid-week), games are generally scheduled for Saturdays in two blocks: Morning Block: 9am (6th Grade), 11am (7th), and 1pm (8th)... and Afternoon Block: 3pm (6th), 5pm (7th), and 7pm (8th). Game times and days are subject to change.
How do we register?
Critical information needed to complete the registration process:
(1) Pre-Register on-line...
(2) Open, print out the Cobb County Physical Form (pdf link at right) and arrange for your family physician or any number of local clinics to conduct a physical of your child, ideally prior to registration. However, forms are available at registration...
(3) The Student Conduct: Interscholastic/Extracurricular Activities Form signed by your child. This form is available at registration...
(4) Open, print out, and complete the GMSAA Waiver Form (pdf link at right). This form is also available at registration...
(5) Proof of insurance coverage for your child. Inexpensive temporary plans are available if needed. Ask a staff member should your child require temporary insurance coverage to play. Also, make sure to provide this insurance information on the Cobb County Physical Form (pdf link at right)...
(6) A money order or cashier's check in the amount of $300 for Fall ($75 for Spring) made payable to "Sprayberry TD Club." Credit cards and cash are also accepted...
(7) A money order or cashier's check in the amount of $250 made payable to "Sprayberry TD Club," as a refundable equipment security deposit. Credit cards and cash are also accepted...
(8) [For Fall Season Only] A money order or cashier's check in the amount of $50 made payable to "Sprayberry TD Club," as a refundable concession deposit. Credit cards and cash are also accepted. Personal checks are no longer accepted at any time...
(9) Copy of Child's Birth Certificate…
(10) Report, with Child, to Sprayberry's John Paty Football Fieldhouse at specified equipment pick-up dates and times.
What’s it REALLY going to cost?
A more detailed description is presented below (see Equipping a Football Player), but expect to pay anywhere from $200-$300 for the 3-week Spring season and from $600-$700 for the 13+-week Fall season (not including refundable $250 equipment deposits).
^ REQUIRED for REGISTRATION
^ REQUIRED for REGISTRATION
(late APRIL - early MAY)
3 weeks… 2 jamborees
(AUGUST – NOVEMBER)
13+ weeks… 8 regular season games, 4 rounds of playoffs
Although the Sprayberry Jr Jackets furnish all equipment “required” to play competitive tackle-football (helmets, shoulder pads, padded pants, and mouthpieces), it is the player’s responsibility to provide cleats (~$45-$100 new) and other equipment designated as “optional,” such as gloves (~$15-$45 new), arm pads (~$10-$40 new), and helmet visors (~$20-$30 new). Although shoulder pads are provided as part of “required” equipment, you may purchase and use your own shoulder pads, for example, as long as they meet proper safety standards for player size and functionality. Use of standard-issue helmets is recommended, as they are routinely maintained, certified, and phased-out.
A mouthpiece that attaches to the facemask is mandatory and is issued as “required” equipment. However, being mouthpieces, they tend to disappear and/or get chewed up, so there may be several mouthpieces in a player’s mouth during a given season. Be prepared to buy at least one during the year. They can cost anywhere from $2-$20 (depending upon the orthodontic needs of the player – specialized mouthpieces are not provided), and can be found at any sporting goods store (see below), as well as at Target and Wal-Mart.
“Optional” football equipment may be purchased at any retail sporting goods store, such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, Hibbett’s Sporting Goods, and Sports Authority. Play-It-Again Sports, and other used sporting goods stores, have great prices on used equipment (cleats, $5-$15… arm pads, $5-$20… helmet visors, $10-$20).
Estimated Costs of SPRING Season (3 weeks)
(based on prices for new equipment)
$75 registration fee
(+$250 refundable equip deposit)
$50-$125 optional equip (cleats, gloves, arm pads)
$24 gate fees (2 jamborees x 2 fans @ $6 each)
$15-$20 snacks (2 jamborees x 2 meals @ $5 each)
$5-$10 travel (2 jamborees x 30 min round-trip each)
~$190-$280 total estimated Spring costs (not including equipment deposit)
~$6-$9 per hour (28 hours of practice/instruction and 4 hours of jamborees)
Estimated Costs of FALL Season (13+ weeks)
(based on prices for new equipment)
$300 registration fee
(+$250 refundable equipment deposit)
(+$50 refundable concession deposit)
$50-$125 optional equip (cleats, gloves, arm pads)
$120 gate fees (10 games x 2 fans @ $6 each)
$90-100 snacks (10 games x 2 meals @ $5 each)
$45-$55 travel (5 away games x 30 min round-trip ea)ch
$25-$35 team halftime drinks (one game per season)
~$700-$810 total estimated Fall costs (not including equipment deposit)
~$6-$7 per hour (100 hours of practice/instruction, 20 hours of games, and 2 hours of banquet festivities)
Practices are 2-hours long and typically run between 6-6:30pm until 8-8:30pm at the Sprayberry practice fields behind Jim Frazier Stadium. Players should report 5-10 minutes early for each practice. The first two weeks, practices will be held Monday through Friday, but only Monday through Thursday during the Fall season. Spring season practices are usually 5 days per week for 3 weeks.
Even during bad weather, coaching and learning can still occur in the field house going over players' assignments for offensive plays and defensive schemes. When practices are CANCELLED, players should be alert for make-up practice dates and times, to be determined by each team's coaching staff.
Although water breaks are taken frequently and ample water is available on-site at practices, players are encouraged to bring their own fluids, especially if they prefer sports drinks.
7th Grade Fall 2009 Action
An American football "jamboree" typically refers to a possession-based, round-robin tournament between any number of teams, with no official scoring, no formal referees, and no special teams (i.e., kicking) plays. Each team possesses the ball continuously, in turn (if desired), for as many plays as it can execute within the predetermined time guidelines (typically 10-20 minutes). Play may be stopped (although the clock does not stop) for brief instruction and coaching, as well as for injuries.
Due to space constraints, fields of play are often split in half to form two separate scrimmage areas on either side of the 50-yard line. Coaches and reserve players alike often form the separating lines at mid-field, with coaches also serving as informal and "impartial" judges when requested (verifying catches, fumbles, etc.). Teams may play any number of offensive or defensive posessions in such a fashion.
Jamborees serve the purposes of (1) providing coaches key observational data of players in full-speed action, (2) giving players valuable playing time (and, thus, confidence), and (3) playing against other programs' players (and, therefore, bonding as a team). Jamborees are, in many respects, sets of multi-team practice sessions.
As with any sport or athletic pursuit, bumps, bruises, and injuries can be part of the risk of playing. Expect for your player to come home from practices with bruises on his arms and legs, and feeling a bit tired and sore all over. Fingers may take a beating grabbing for jerseys and knocking down passes and feet can get stepped on by all the cleats stomping around.
Players playing line and linebacker positions may want to consider wearing arm pads due to the constant pounding their arms take over the course of a season.
It has become fashionable to wear low-rise ankle socks with cleats. If your player decides that is his choise, please have him wear socks that at least extend above where his cleats meet his ankles. Otherwise, the cleat uppers will rub blisters on his ankles, creating a miserable situation.
Epsom salt baths are helpful for soothing the aches and pains of a tired body. Aspercreme is also good to keep around to rub on sore areas. This is part of football, but should more serious injuries occur, these should be reported to coaches and parents as soon as possible. There is an old saying in football, "You can play when you're hurt (bruises, twisted ankles), but not when you're injured (broken bone, separated shoulder)." A player may be expected to play though "hurts," but no one expects a player to play when truly "injured."
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