Western Mass H.S. Football Teams to Welcome Youth Programs on Thursday
CHESHIRE, Mass. -- Before they start practicing for the 2018 season on Friday, the area’s high school football teams will put a down payment on seasons to come on Thursday.
The county’s football programs are joining forces with high school teams in the Pioneer Valley for the inaugural Western Mass Football Night Out.
High school programs, which officially can start practicing on Friday, are inviting youth football programs to a joint session to talk about the game and some of the skills that youngsters should work on as they work toward one day wearing the high school colors themselves.
“The Western Mass coaches association was meeting and talked about how we want to promote football,” Hoosac Valley High coach Dayne Poirot said. “This was one of the things the association decided to push for.
“We’re fortunate to have a good connection with our youth leagues in Adams and Cheshire, but not everyone does. This is another way to reach out and invite kids to be at our practices.”
In the northwest corner of the county, Mount Greylock coach Andrew Agostini said his program also enjoys a good relationship with the Lanesborough Tigers youth program, but he is looking forward to Thursday as a chance to help solidify those bonds.
“You want to make yourself more visible so kids see you,” Agostini said. “A lot of the kids I’ll see Thursday are going into the seventh grade. Developing that kind of relationship is important.
“Since I took the role [of varsity head coach], I’ve tried to integrate with the Tigers as much as possible. I certainly understand how important they are to the high school. Having the parents see everything is important, too -- letting them know that their son or daughter can play football and seeing that we’re teaching the right techniques, not using the head.
“That’s a good place to start on Thursday.”
Poirot has similar plans.
“We’re going to be running drills,” he said. “We’ll be showing parents what we do at a high school and showing kids what we do at a high school level -- demonstrating what we do for safety.
“We want to make it so they understand how high school practices are run. Sometimes it’s a little different than youth football practices.”
Poirot said he expects to have a number of his varsity athletes in attendance on the last day before the official preseason gets underway. The Hurricanes already have a tradition of going to youth practices and and talking to younger players about their experiences.
And Poirot has a longstanding practice of coordinating with the coaches in the youth programs.
“We have a great group with our youth program, and I end up working with them pretty closely,” he said. “They like reaching out to me and asking questions and talking about how we do things at the high school level.
“That helps make their practices better. When they have a solid understanding of what they’re going to be doing [in later years], they can do it at a younger age.”
Agostini said he hopes Thursday night is a success not just at Mount Greylock but throughout the region, which has seen a dropoff in football participation rates in recent years.
“It’s certainly a crisis facing football at many schools, not just in Berkshire County or Western Mass,” Agostini said. “We’re at risk of losing programs. And it’s such a special game. It’s had an important role in people’s lives -- especially sometimes kids who might not do as well at school. Football has always drawn them in and given them something to cling to.
“We need to do something drastic to get more kids to play. In the very near future, we need to come up with different ideas and think outside the box. … We need to do what we can at this time, and I think things like [Thursday’s event] are as important as anything.”