Building Excitement

Jaguar Youth Football will prep boys and girls for Boulder Creek’s teams

By Griffin Fabits

Justin Simons and the Anthem community are preparing for the launch of a youth tackle football program, the Jaguar Youth Football Organization, in early February.

The coed league will have three teams—10u, 12u and 14u—and will compete against other organizations across the Valley in the National Youth Sports League from February to May.

Anthem was home to several youth football programs in years past, but they have “reconstructed an entire organization” to now serve as a direct feeder program to the Boulder Creek High School football program, says Simons, the organization’s president. The organization carries the same mascot name as Boulder Creek.

Simons signed up more than 100 kids, ranging from fourth to eighth grades. Across the program, there are 25 coaches, including Simons, who will coach his son on the 10u team.

The season will have eight regular-season games.

There is communitywide excitement for the birth of another youth tackle football program in Anthem. Simons says the organization averages up to “six sign-ups per day” and “word is spreading.”

“We’re excited, too. This is a great thing.”

The Jaguar Youth Football Organization offers “top-level coaching” and teaches the “fundamentals about tackle football in a safe environment,” Simons says.

The league rolled out measures to ensure young players are taught how to safely and properly tackle. The method, which was made famous by a former rugby player and has since made its way into the National Football League, focuses on hitting at the shoulders. It is designed to eliminate helmet-to-helmet contact and reduce head injuries.

And because it’s a feeder program to nearby Boulder Creek, youth football players will be groomed for the transition to the Jaguars’ high school program.

It’s an incentive for parents like Christian Luckock, of Anthem, to sign up his eighth-grade son.

“It’s a great way for parents and kids to make friends,” Luckock says. “We have a very big family atmosphere. My son knows every kid across the different schools because they played football together. It absolutely helps build the community.”

Simons agrees, offering that it’s a “nice transition for the young kids before they get to high school. They’ll be Jaguars now, and when they get to high school they’ll be Jaguars,” he says.

Simons, a Boulder Creek High School veteran football coach, says he and other coaches realize the implementation of a communitywide feeder program can impact the high school team.

“From the organizational standpoint, we became a feeder program because we realized feeder programs are very prominent throughout the state of Arizona for major high schools,” Simons says.

“We realized we did not have a direct feeder program through Boulder Creek, one aligned as close as possible to the high school, meaning everything from the mascot, helmets, similar practice gear, game jerseys.”

Coaches and parents alike identified a rising dilemma in their community: the lack of a feeder system often encourages players to take their talents elsewhere.

“There’s a lot of talent in this area for youth athletes,” Luckock says. “Sometimes, we lost some of those talents because other high schools have really good feeder programs and they go to those schools, who have kind of a pipeline system all the way through to their high school program.

“It’s kind of what we want to build in Anthem; make this kind of a football town.”

To sign up children for the league, visit jaguaryouthfootball.org.

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