Springdale football hopes to see long-term benefits from revival of junior high program
Monday, September 2, 2019 | 12:01 AM
There are several crucial parts of a high school football team, but one of the most important — and the one that can produce long-term success — is the establishment of a reliable junior high program.
It allows coaches to interact with players coming up through their system while also allowing players to become accustomed to what coaches might ask of them. A junior high program also provides a transition period between youth level football and varsity.
That period is critical at a small school like Springdale. With a male enrollment of 102, according to the PIAA’s last census in 2017, the Dynamos can’t afford to miss out on a entire class.
“I think when the kids don’t play a sport for the year, they lose interest and find something else,” Springdale coach Seth Napierkowski said. “Then the next year rolls around, and they are onto something else. So it’s incredibly important. We didn’t have one last year, and the fallout from that is we only have one freshman this year.”
Because of a lack of participation last year, the Dynamos didn’t have a junior high football team, which meant eighth-graders, and some seventh-graders, had to skip a year. When rumors started swirling there wouldn’t be a program for the second straight year, a group of parents sprung into action.
“We didn’t think we were going to have a team, so my husband and I started reaching out to everyone that had played before,” Melissa Gilbert said. “I mean, we went as far as walking across the street to ask kids to play, and a couple of my son’s friends came out to play. Then, players just started to come out after the fact once they knew there was going to be a team.”
Within a week, the Dynamos had enough players to field a team, and during their first scrimmage of the season, they beat Riverview, 28-0. It was a strong restart to a program that can provide the varsity team with several advantages. Several coaches will pass down their philosophies and their practice styles and will contribute to a youth program to prepare their players for the next level.
For the past four years, Giulio Tommarello has been a coach at the junior high and midget levels and has contributed as an assistant coach for the varsity team. In doing so, he has been able to directly impact the future of the Springdale program.
“He’s teaching them the fundamentals we’re teaching our guys,” Napierkowski said. “So by the time they come up and are ready to compete at the varsity level, they understand the terminology a little bit already, and they can jump right in.
Having a coach from the varsity level has more than just one advantage, though. It also gives players someone familiar to go to when they break into the program.
“It gives them that face to go to,” Tommarello said. “If they may not feel like they can approach the head coach or somebody else, then they look and see myself, maybe they feel like they can come up to me to explain something.”
Most successful high school football programs in the WPIAL have a youth program that they can build from. With the revamping of Springdale’s junior high program, Napierkowski is excited about what the future might hold.
“You see all the good programs around here, they all run the same systems all the way up through into the high school,” Napierkowski said. “So that’s what we’re trying to build here: a little bit of continuity between our younger players and the varsity athletes.”
Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
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