Gerry Logan juggles a lot of youth sports in his profession.
As the sports coordinator for Clinton (Miss.) Parks and Recreation, Logan looked across the wide range of activities he oversees and noticed that football was missing an important aspect of the season when compared to the rest – a state championship.
It’s been a couple of years in the making, but Logan’s determination to bring a statewide football event was realized 2012 as the Mississippi State Association of Youth Football hosted its first state championships on Dec. 8 and 9.
Logan, who also is president of the MSAYF, said having USA Football involved for greater player safety is an attractive and valuable component of the tournament.
“There are other youth football organizations in Mississippi that offer what they call a state championship, a tournament championship,” Logan said. “We wanted to be involved with USA Football and offer a USA Football supported state championship because of the amount of resources they have that promote safety.
“USA Football, to me, has a much higher standard on what you have to do to be a part of it, and I like high standards.”
The idea kicked off during a March 2011 USA Football State Forum in Hattiesburg on the Southern Mississippi campus.
After selecting a board for the event, the group began seeking out locations, choosing West Harrison High School in Gulf Port, primarily because most of the participating teams are located near the Gulf Coast.
Five leagues competed in the inaugural competition – the Lyman Youth Association, Vancleave Youth Association, St. Martin Youth Association, Bay Saints Youth Football and Clinton Parks and Recreation.
“We wanted to do this because it gives the kids a chance to compete on a big stage,” said Craig Peterson, president of the Lyman Youth Association. “It was all brought forth in a light that we are playing under USA Football rules, and the main thing is that the coaches are certified so the kids have a safe, fun experience at the end of the year.”
Competition included three age groups – U-8, U-10 and U-12 – with a total of 11 teams competing.
On the first day of the event, teams played jamboree-style scrimmages within in their age groups, providing extra snaps for the players and serving as a way of seeding the bracket competition.
“The event was unbelievably well-attended,” Logan said. “We had upwards of 1,500 people come through the gate over the two days.”
Seeing the fan support inspires Logan to learn if more leagues would like to join the state championship next year.
“It’s a motivation for the kids because they get a chance to travel and play for a state championship,” Logan said. “It is about giving these kids something they can take with them. If they are a part of a team, they get life skills. If their coach tells them to do something on the field and they do it, it teaches them that when they go home and their mom tells them to do something, they do it.
“To me the skills are transferrable, so they can use them in life.”
Logan has high expectations for enabling more kids and families to take part in the tournament in future years.
“Based on the exposure we can get, there is no reason we can’t have 30 teams next year.” Logan said. “I think it can grow substantially and be very, very large.”