LOG CABIN STAFF WRITER
Jimmy Toal is excited about beginning a new era of Conway Optimist youth football.
Returning player registration is from 8:30-10 a.m. Saturday at Peyton Hillis Field at Curtis Walker Park.
Toal, who has coached in the league the past seven years and played in it as a fourth- and fifth-grader, is the new commissioner. The local league is now affiliated with USA Football, a national organization that trains and certifies coaches and is funded by the National Football League.
“If I was going to do this, I wanted to do it right and the safety aspect is the most important part,” he said. All coaches on the game field must now be certified by USA Football. That means they have passed an online certification test and have attended a hands-on clinic about technique and safety measures.
In addition, the league will have a player-safety coach, who will attend practices and games to make sure all safety aspects are followed.
“One thing involves proper tackling technique, which is heads-up tackling,” Toal said. “I’ve checked with the Conway High coaches and it’s the same tackling method they are using. We are also emphasizing concussion awareness and hydration where the player-safety coach will monitor proper equipment fitting.”
Toal said the affiliation with USA Football came after he researched several programs. The organization allows local leagues to run their programs while providing a resource for training.
“The thing that impressed me is I saw a way to improve the safety,” he said.
“The fact that it is funded by the NFL gave it a lot of credibility.”
A parent clinic will also be held to teach concussion awareness, hydration and tackling techniques. “We want them to know exactly what their kids are being taught and what to watch for if they are having problems,” Toal said.
A new player draft will be held from 8:30-10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 23, which will include a mini-combine in which youngsters, grades 4-6, will run a 40-yard dash, a shuttle run and a broad jump.
“Every kid will be evaluated for his particularly skill level before he enters the draft so we can balance out the teams,” Toal said.
If the player wishes to purchase his own, new equipment, he will be custom-fitted and the equipment can be purchased at a discount.
He can also rent equipment from the Optimist Club.
The player-safety coach will be on hand to assure it is properly fitted.
The season will begin on Sept. 8, and play will be on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.
There will be B team play for grades 4-5, and A team play for grades 5-6.
Toal hopes to have at least 12 teams.
Thirty-three coaches have already been certified.
“We’re trying to be pro-active in improving the game at this level,” he said.
Further information can be obtained at conwayyouthfootball.com