Hopkinton’s youth football tackle program was put on hold after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now the organization’s new leader, Bryan Brown, is hoping to bring it back in the fall.
“We lost the tackle program in town and we have not been able to get it back,” Brown said. “So our kids who want to play tackle have to go to other towns, mostly Holliston.”
In addition to the high school program, Hopkinton has a middle school program for seventh and eighth graders. But, while the town has flag football from kindergarten through fifth grade, there has not been a tackle program for the past few years for kids from second through sixth grade.
Kids who have been playing flag football and want to continue in middle school have to take a gap year, or play out of town, for sixth grade.
“We are losing some great athletes to other towns, and that’s fine, I want kids to have the chance to play,” Brown said. “But, if they can play locally, why not?”
Brown, who has two kids in the program and a third set to join in the fall, said registration is open, and interested kids and parents can learn more at hopyf.com or on Facebook at Hopkinton American Youth Football.
“It’s vital to do this now, because we don’t have any equipment and, due to supply chain stuff, it takes a long time to get football equipment, so I need to know who wants to play tackle,” Brown said.
Brown said he was hoping to get fifth and sixth grade teams up and running this year, but he will field teams for younger athletes if there is enough interest.
“The way I am talking to parents about this is, ‘If you can get me the kids, I can get you a team,’ ” he said. “There is more immediate interest at the older ages. But, if I can get second, third or fourth grade, if I can get enough interest, then I will order the equipment.”
Brown played football his whole life and he’s a big believer in the lessons it can teach kids.
“There is a lot of camaraderie that you get with football,” he said. “It builds character. I played all of the sports, and I got more out of football than I did those other sports just because of the nature of the game.”
Brown also stressed that safety will be a top priority for all of the coaches.
“They are going to be trained and meet certain training requirements to make sure that tackle is taught safely, and the middle school and high school programs are going to help train the youth programs on how they teach tackle,” he said.
Hopkinton High School football coach Mark Sanborn and middle school coach Mike Webb both have been incredibly supportive of bringing back tackle football, Brown said.
“They have values that they instill in the kids at both the middle school and high school programs that I want to adopt and make sure my kids are living by the same values,” Brown said. “The middle school program supports it, the high school program supports it, so we are going to run with it.”