Pulling together a statewide youth football tournament in 10 months is a difficult task.
Doing it in a state as large as Texas can be downright daunting.
But through volunteer bases in four cities, the first Texas Youth Football State Championship proved to be a good case study for future Lonestar State tournaments as well as a model for others to follow, said Don Vrana, vice president of the North Texas State Association of Youth Football.
“When you are planning a major event for the first time, it is hard to work off such a set of unknowns,” said Vrana, who also is president of the Forney Pride that sent two teams to championship games. “Everyone is enthusiastic about what we have going here. We are already having conversations about next year and trying to expand it.”
The Texas Youth Football State Championship is the result of cooperation between the North Texas and South Texas state associations. With help from USA Football regional managers, youth football state associations are forming across the nation to bring commissioners together to promote the game in their areas and continue discussions year-round.
Some state associations focus on common rules. Others share equipment and try to cut costs through shared expenses.
In Texas, the No. 1 goal was to find a way for teams from across the state to come together for a season-ending tournament. With brackets designed for league champions, all-star teams and select teams, there were opportunities for every player to participate through regional games in Dallas, Houston and New Braunfels before advancing to state title games at Baylor University.
“This was a huge deal for the players and their parents,” said Marcus Kallman, head coach of the Austin Town and Country Warriors, which finished second in the 10-and-under league champions bracket. “Our season would have been over on Nov. 5 when we won our division of the Central Texas YFL, but when we had the opportunity to play at Baylor, that sold it for us.”
Planning for the event began in February and March 2011 at state association meetings. Association leaders determined age and weight classes as well as a timetable so leagues could wrap up their schedules before the state tournament began.
Leagues had the option to send their champions, a group of all-stars or both for ages 6-and-under to 12-and-under. North Region champions also were named in 7-, 9- and 11-and-under divisions. Select teams were defined as all-star groups that had players from more than one league.
To participate, leagues must have either been USA Football League Affiliates or certify their coaches through USA Football online training.
Then it was just a matter of bringing the leagues together.
“Texas’ competitive nature and fervor for football fueled the high intensity for a unified state tournament,” USA Football South Regional Manager Dave Fanucchi said. “This placed the tournament on a fast track in terms of organization.”
With Vrana coordinating games in Dallas and South Texas Association president Gene Pena overseeing Houston, two weeks of regional games led up to the Dec. 17 title games at Floyd Casey Stadium in Waco.
“Once we got the ball rolling, everything worked like clockwork,” Vrana said. “There are definitely some things we will do differently next year, but it could not have come out better for a first attempt.”
The effort was appreciated, Kallman said.
“Everything was run well – the stadium, the concessions, the medals, the loudspeakers. It was all great,” Kallman said. “It’s rare for our kids to hear their name on the PA. This was a very positive way to end the season, a memory these boys will hold on to the rest of their lives.”
Texas Youth Football State Championship results
8-and-under league champions: Ennis Lions 19, Waco Connelly Cadets 6
8-and-under all-stars: Crossroads North 27, Ellis County All-Stars 0
8-and-under select: North Houston Panthers 14, Rockwell Jackets 0
10-and-under league champions: Red Oak Cowboys 21, Austin Town and Country Warriors 13
10-and-under all-stars: Humble Wildcats 33, Ennis All-Stars 18
10-and-under select: Houston Jets 13, Ellis County Select 0
12-and-under league champions: Forney Pride 45, Waco Lake Air Ravens 0
12-and-under all-stars: Humble Wildcats 33, Denton All-Stars 0
12-and-under select: North Texas Knights 32, Houston Jets 0