The Whetstone Valley Youth Football organization is heavy into its 10th season with 130 players from around the area participating this year. That number has been fairly steady the past few years, according to practice coordinator Brian Sandvig.
Players come from Milbank, Big Stone City, Grant-Deuel, Ortonville, Summit, Waverly-South Shore, Wilmot, Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley and St. Lawrence schools to participate in the program. The primary purpose of the program is not to win football games, but rather to teach the fundamentals of football, sportsmanship, discipline and the importance of team play to all participants. “We believe the lessons learned through a well directed football program may be as valuable as those learned in academic settings,” noted Sandvig. “Hopefully, these lessons teach our players how to be more successful in other areas of their lives as well.”
The program focuses very heavily on fundamentals of the game. However, this year marks the first the group has adopted the same offensive plays as the Milbank Area Bulldogs are running. “This is the first year we have applied a uniform playbook across all of our teams in an attempt to provide a better experience as the sixth grade players leave our four-year program and go up to play seventh grade football,” said Sandvig. “We all run the same 4-4 defense as well.”
Parent involvement is highly encouraged within the program. “We do our best to involve our parents as much as they are willing to participate,” mentioned Sandvig. Parents coach the teams, hold bags during fundamentals, serve at the concession stands and much more. “Every year we tell parents that we subscribe to the philosophy that ‘many hands make light work.’”
Coaches believe it is a privilege to work with youth and take the job seriously, according to Sandvig. All coaches are certified through USA Football’s Heads Up Football player protection program. Volunteering their time to coach are Jason Kettwig, Mike Hanson, Chris Rick, Keith Weber, Bryan Johnson, Tony Howard and Sandvig. Helping out in other aspects are Dan Snaza, player safety coach; Hanson, equipment manager; Howard, league rules; and Adam Cummins, league scheduler.
The fifth and sixth grade players participated in a day-long jamboree Saturday, September 12, with the eight teams in the league. In addition, each team scrimmages and plays games around six times in the season. The program will wrap up its season Saturday, October 3, with its annual Superbowl.