KINGMAN - The football teams at two KIngman middle schools are bursting at the seams, after a fashion, with their coaches struggling to find enough uniforms to suit up the influx of potential players.
When the Kingman Cobras Pop Warner football team dissolved earlier this year, the Kingman Youth Football League stepped in to take up the slack. For the first time, third-graders were accepted into the program and the sixth-graders were moved out to play football at their middle schools. It was a calculated move that changed the dynamics at both schools.
At White Cliffs Middle School, the number of students trying out for the Wolves football team increased by about 40 boys, from about 60 last year to 105 this year. Head coach Joe Juelfs said rounds of cuts were made after several tryouts this week, reducing the roster to 70 players. Still, said Juelfs, that's 10 more participants than the school has uniforms to fill.
"I know we can find that amount of uniforms somewhere," said Juelfs, also a KYFL board member and coach. "But next year, if this many kids show up for tryouts, we're going to have to do some fundraisers and get more help from the community. We want these kids to get a chance to play football."
In fact, Juelfs donated 40 sets of shoulder pads and 20 football helmets to the school this year because he knew more students would be trying out for the team. White Cliffs also received a $1,000 football grant from USA Football this summer that was used to purchase 20 new helmets. The school still lacks enough football jerseys and pants for the players.
"I didn't want the kids to get cheated and I was able to get the equipment, so that's what I did," said Juelfs. "It's a great problem to have this many kids trying out for the team, and I told those who got cut that it wasn't because they didn't have the ability to play. It's because we don't have the resources to provide for them."
At Kingman Middle School, the number of students trying out for the Bobcats football team also increased, but not as much. Athletic director Todd Winebarger said about 20 more boys showed up last week and more are being added as they pass their physicals, which are a requirement to play sports. Currently, about 50 students are on the team, compared to 40 last year. Winebarger is expecting about 60 students when the dust settles.
"We don't have quite the jump that White Cliffs did," said Winebarger. "Right now, we have enough helmets and shoulder pads for 60 players, and we may have enough jerseys, too. We're waiting to see the final number of kids who try out. We have never cut kids for football and I don't think we're going to have to this year, either."
Roger Jacks, superintendent of the Kingman Unified School District, said schools must find new ways to help students participate in sports by reaching out to the community for assistance. Jacks said KYFL has allowed the schools to borrow uniforms in the past, and others have pitched in to help make ends meet.
"It's a very good thing to have so many students eager to play football," said Jacks. "A lot of folks, me included, believe there are many reasons kids come to school. Learning is foremost, yes, but there are other driving forces, such as sports. Our coaches want to find ways to keep these kids involved. We have tremendous cooperation throughout the city, and those who share their resources with us are giving these kids an opportunity to play."