Prince Albert minor football spring programs are filling up fast.
In the program’s little tykes spring league, one age group is full and another only has two spots left.
The little tykes program is for football players aged four to nine years old, and it’s divided up into three age groups: Four to five, six to seven and eight to nine years old.
With opening week set to start on May 6, the six to seven age group has already reached its cap with 40 players, while the eight to nine age group only has two open spots remaining.
“We encourage parents to pre-register their kids online, because we have those caps in place,” P.A. minor football board member Taras Kachkowski said. “Each year we see lots of interest from parents for our little tykes program.”
The four to five age group has 19 open spots remaining, according to the P.A. minor football website.
The little tykes division is one of two that the football association organizes for its annual spring league play.
The other is a division for peewee- and bantam-aged players, ages 10 to 12 and 13 to 14, respectively. The peewee and bantam teams are both full contact football.
Opening week for those two age groups is also the week of May 6.
The little tykes program resembles more of a skills development camp, whereas the peewee and bantam divisions scrimmage against each other, Kachkowski said.
The peewee and the bantam teams play six-a-side games, with practices on Mondays and Wednesdays, while games are played on Thursdays.
The little tykes program meets once per week on Saturday mornings.
Kachkowski said that a recent new topic he and other board members have heard about from interested parents is the issue of head injuries and concussions in football.
“We’ve changed the way we teach contact and tackling,” he said. “And Football Canada has been fairly active in encouraging us to work on that.”
Unlike previous tackling techniques that emphasized bowing one’s neck and making first contact with one’s face mask – what Kachkowski called the “old-school way” – P.A. minor football has begun teaching players to aim for “chest-to-chest” contact to initiate the tackle.
After that, the technique calls for the tackler to roll to the ground with the ball carrier.
“It’s more of a rugby-style tackle. Once you have an opponent in grasp, you kind of gator-roll to finish off the tackle … rolling onto the ground disperses the forces of the hit,” he explained.
The intent is to minimize the risk of head injuries and concussions to players, he said.
“Of course with any contact sport, there’s always going to be some inherent risk. We try to minimize that.
“The benefits of playing sports outweigh the risks — such as personal development, learning to be part of a team and contribute as a good team member,” he said.
Overall, interest levels and registration numbers for this year’s spring league have been relatively steady, compared with previous years.
Kachkowski added that concerns over head injuries and concussions have only slightly affected registration.
“Our fortunes also seem to be tied to the Saskatchewan Roughriders – when they’re successful, we see a bit of a spike in our numbers; when they’re not, our numbers dip a little bit.”
Online registration for interested players and parents is available at www.pariveriders.com.