Emerging Rockford youth football program is gaining ground

Spencer Conley from San Antonio helped teach football skills at the three-day Rockford youth skills camp Monday.

Spencer Conley from San Antonio helped teach football skills at the three-day Rockford youth skills camp Monday.

Craig Johnson, director of the Rockford youth football program, talks to participants of the Rockford skills camp about more than just football.

Craig Johnson, director of the Rockford youth football program, talks to participants of the Rockford skills camp about more than just football.

Youth tackle registration deadline is Aug. 15

BY DAVE PEDERSEN

A record number of boys played youth tackle football last season for the Rockford Area Athletic Association, even though the national trend is for decreasing interest in the sport.

“We are certain this has to do with the youth program that is entering its fifth year, our new high school field and a steady stream of support from our parents,” said Ryan Johnson director of the RAAA football program for youth in grades third to sixth. “It helped that we played games at the Metrodome.”

The continued rise in interest was seen Monday when about 80 boys took part in the first day of the fourth annual skills camp. Rockford High School coach Dan Houghton helped out, along with current players. A special guest this year was Spencer Conley, from San Antonio Converse Judson High. His team is also called the Rockets.

“I met Spencer when coaching in a college All-Star football game in 2009,” notes Johnson. “Spencer is also in town as we are establishing a community outreach program with the Gophers. Spencer is an internationally known public speaker and his Too Driven program is helping to incorporate positive life choices in youth with confidence and purpose.”

Johnson said one of the goals in the youth football program is to include aspects of Long Term Athletic Development (LTAD).

“We are not just focusing on football, it is our goal to incorporate aspects of overall athletic development,” says Johnson. “We want to help create athletes that help all sports. We also want to help develop a passion for football. We limit contact, teach fundamentals and stress skill development.”

This fall Rockford’s seventh grade middle school team will be the first class of athletes to have had four years of playing youth football. Prior to the tackle program Rockford players didn’t put on equipment until seventh grade.

Another help with the development of the Rocket high program was the recently concluded first year for the Rocket Power strength and conditioning program in the new facility.

Johnson is the strength and conditioning director for Wayzata Public School and director of operations for Wayzata Football. He also was state director for the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). He has been teaching high school and coaching football for the past 15 years, working at Wayzata since 2000.

After his son and a few other Rockford students participated in the Delano youth program five years ago when they were in fifth grade Johnson and Steve Yakesh, RAAA Baseball Director, started the Rockford youth program from scratch.

“When I became the director of operations for Wayzata football, it basically means I work with the Trojans by day and the Rockets by night,” adds Johnson. “I split my time last year between Rockford and Wayzata games on Friday nights and even helped out at Rockford practices a little bit towards the end of the season.”

Youth football registration

The deadline to register for the Rockford youth tackle football program for grades third through sixth is Aug. 15. There is a $25 late fee beginning Aug. 16.

Cost to participate is $75, plus a jersey fee of $25. The jerseys are the same as last season and are multi-year, which means they can be used as long as they fit and they are yours to keep.

Register on line by Aug. 15 at the RAAA website www.rockfordball.com. Information: Ryan Johnson, football@rockfordball.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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