Youngsters learning game of football

Cowboys quarterback Juan Gutierrez take the snap and looks to pitch to his running back during Saturday’s afternoon game against the Sundevils at Jim Hill Field. (CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks)

By Greg Price: CNJ sports writer

Wrapped in a warm blanket with his family, Jack Jones looks on as his 10-year-old grandson Michael Petersen plays with his Clovis Christian Yellow Jackets against the Friona Aggies.

Jones, 54, has come out to support his grandson and his team on a crisp Saturday at Jim Hill Field for Play Inc.’s weekly youth league games.

Jones said he was happy his grandson could participate in the league because it is something constructive for him to do.

“They teach them the fundamentals of football,” Jones said. “And it’s something else to keep them out of trouble.”

The Clovis Christian-Friona game was one of 12 played on Saturday. The league includes 42 teams from the Clovis area and West Texas, according to Play Inc. football director Sammy Herrera.

The league has roughly 1,000 players from first-grade to sixth-grade, Herrera said.

“Our motto is we try to make sure every kid gets to play,” Herrera said. “We also try to make it a very family-friendly league.”

In keeping with its motto, Play Inc. has shelled out $28,000 this season for about 100 players who could not afford the fees or find a sponsor to participate, Herrera said.

When all the fees and finances are taken care of, the kids can take the field and learn about the game from coaches like Jason Tuls, who has been the Clovis Christian coach for two years but has coached as high as the junior college level.

“Coaching kids is the only pure thing,” Tuls said. “There’s not a lot of recruitment, and so it’s really about teaching the kids the fundamentals and teach them the work ethic for life and school.”

Tuls, 33, understands the impact his tutelage can have on his players, as he still keeps in touch with his high school and junior college coaches.

“I took a liking to them,” Tuls said. “It’s like when you were younger and you’d listen to your coaches, but not to your parents.”

On the opposite side of the spectrum, Friona’s coach Pat Schwab volunteered for the job after there was a shortage of available coaches. Schwab had never coached, but took on the responsibility for the players.

“I like to be with and help the kids,” Schwab said. “And they (the parents) sure appreciate that they have a person coaching who doesn’t have any kids on the field.”

As the final buzzer sounds, the scoreboard quickly resets the time so the next game can begin. The Aggies defeated the Yellowjackets 28-0, but Tuls does not see winning as the end goal.

“We’re 0-5 right now,” he said. “But we’re having fun.”