Youth football: Junior Tartans changing direction
Brian Fresoni admits he’s “a football guy.”
He’s played the game, he’s coached the game and without a doubt, he’s developed a passion for the game.
And he hopes that the changes that are being made in the Scotia-Glenville Junior Tartans program help some kids develop the same passion.
The Junior Tartans are leaving the Capital District Pop Warner League to join the Fulton County Youth Football League, which consists of teams from Johnstown, Gloversville and Broadalbin-Perth. While Pop Warner football operates under a strict age/weight matrix, the Fulton County league is divided strictly by school grade — flag is for youngsters in first and second grades, junior tackle is for grades three and four and senior tackle is for grades five and six.
Fresoni, who is director of football operations for the Junior Tartans and also coaches the older division team, thinks the new classifications will help increase participation.
“The day of restrictions in youth football is a dinosaur,” said Fresoni. “We have too many kids being left behind because they’re being told they can’t play football because of their weight, all the way from second grade to seventh grade. Kids who are told they can’t play get discouraged, and they don’t learn the discipline or get the camaraderie that comes from playing with a team.”
Fresoni said there are other reasons for joining the Fulton County League, including a later start to the season and some major rule differences, such as no kickoffs or punts.
“When I heard no kickoffs, at first I thought, ‘That’s not football,’ ” he said. “I personally didn’t like it. But then I began analyzing it, and the kickoff at this stage is really pretty useless. This league may be lacking some of the skill parts, but you’re not getting booming punts or fair catches from 10-year-olds, anyway.”
The Junior Tartans have really struggled in recent years and went three years without a victory, before finally winning three games last season.
“It was really incredible to see the kids who had played all three years finally get a win last year,” said Fresoni.
Fresoni isn’t just trying to get the Junior Tartans turned around. He’s trying to build a foundation for the future.
“I think this is something that will help us grow into the next level,” he said. “At the end of the sixth grade, these kids will be going into the modified program in seventh grade, and now, they’re going to be competing against the same teams that’ll be playing against when they get in high school. We’ve got people involved now who want to see football blossom.”
According to Fresoni, attendance at board meetings has increased from about a half-dozen diehard supporters to close to 20 people. The Junior Tartans coaching staff includes Chris Armstrong, Nolan Whaley and Frank Nardini, who all share Fresoni’s passion for football, and the program has also brought in Sam Goldstein to update its website.
The Junior Tartans will be holding an informational meeting from 6-7 p.m. Thursday at the high school cafeteria.
“I want to create a family atmosphere,” said Fresoni. “My experience in youth football was that it was a lot of fun, and I want to try to copy that.
Ballston adding team
With freshman football at Ballston Spa High School being eliminated because of funding cuts, Ballston Spa Pop Warner wants to add a junior midget team this season.
To play at the junior midget level, players must be ages 10-12 and weigh 85 to 135 pounds, or be age 13 and weight between 85 and 115 pounds.
According to league president Ron Laurenza, the league hopes to attract players from Saratoga Springs, Burnt Hills, Galway and other surrounding communities that don’t offer junior midget football.
Sign-ups for Ballston Spa Pop Warner flag and tackle football, as well as cheerleading, will be held May 6 from 2-6 p.m. at the Milton Community Center on North Line Road. Registration fees are $125 for tackle football and cheer, and $70 for flag football and cub cheer.