Volume 12 Week 5

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(Updated 1:30 p.m., Aug. 29)
New program teaches football fundamentals to six- and seven-year-olds
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Two youngsters in the Cumberland Panthers new Mite program go head to head during a blocking drill at one of their recent practices. Fred Sherwin/Photo


Seven-year-old Adam Kerr has only been playing tackle football for four weeks, but he's already learned the defensive player's credo, "It's better to hit than to be hit."

"Yeah, I like getting to tackle," admitted Kerr sporting the number 44 on the back of his jersey in honour of his cousin Mike Molinski who played middle linebacker for the Cumberland Panthers and the St. Peter Knights.

Kerr is among 32 youngsters who have signed up for the Cumberland Panthers new mite program for six and seven-year-olds.

The fledgling program was established by the Panthers organization to give the younger kids an opportunity to learn some of the football basics before they try out for the tyke program.

A team of about five or six volunteer coaches patiently work with the kids every Tuesday and Thursday night and early Saturday morning. Veteran head coach Jeff Karady runs the drills and makes sure that the kids are not only learning the fundamentals but having fun as well.

"We're teaching them the fundamentals of football, the rules of the game, the discipline of the game, and making sure that it's a whole bunch of fun," says Karady who spent most of the summer coaching the Panthers' junior varsity team

The youngsters in the program are a real mix. Some, like Kerr, have been around football ever since they could walk, while others may have only played flag football in the spring and are being exposed to tackle football for the first time. Quite a few have older siblings who have been playing football for several years.

Cumberland Mites coach Jeff Karady directs one of the players through a series of cones during a running drill. Fred Sherwin/photo


Markaedyn Nelson, 7, was hoping to follow in the footsteps of his older brother Javontae and play for the Cumberland tyke squad this fall. When he didn't make the team his father Mike signed him up for the mite program.

"I wish they had something like this when I was a kid. This is fantastic," says Nelson. "They're getting a real grounding in the sport. Imagine when these kids tryout for tyke next year."

Besides teaching the kids the football basics, the coaches also stress safety which means making sure the kids put their helmets on properly and have their mouth guards in their rmouths and not hanging from the bottom of their face masks.

Jo-Anne Malouin registered her seven-year-old son Matthew.in the program after he bugged her about playing football for months.

"His friends at school are all into football so he really wanted to play. Before they created the mite program we didn't think he would be able to make the tyke team, so this is great, it teaches the kids everything they need to know to get to the next level," says Malouin.

Besides learning the basics like how to hold the football properly when you're running and how to get into a three point stance, the kids also learn the proper ways to block and tackle and how to throw a football properly.

All the practices are geared to the kids' capacity to pick up each skill.

"The kids really dictate how the practices evole. The more they pick up and the more they understand it, the more we can do," says Karady.

Judging by how much the kids have managed to pick up so far, the Panthers can look forward to many more years of success.

To see additional Cumberland Mites pictures click here

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)

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