Ready, Set, Hike. . .

Doreen Heintz
Sports Editor

A football player runs with the ball during one of the tackle football games held last year for 5th- and 6th-graders.                                  

Photo courtesy of Andrea Norslien

Following in the footsteps of the FHS boys’ football program, the boys 5th- and 6th-grade tackle football program is set to begin. According to Erik Norslien, organizer and one of the coaches for the program, a parents’ meeting and equipment handout will take place on Monday, Aug. 15 at 6:30 p.m. Parents are strongly urged to attend the meeting to find out more about the tackle football program.
“I encourage parents to really encourage their kids to come out for the program,” said Norslien. “If the kids are a little hesitant encourage them to come out for a week and decide if the program is for them.
“During the first days of practice, we will not be practicing in full pads,” Norslien said. “We want to stress conditioning, speed and agility first in practice before the kids put full pads on.”
Norslien added the kids will be wearing their helmets during practice in order to get used to them. All helmets must be recertified every three years, which was done this summer.
The 5th-grade team practices as a unit and the 6th graders practice against each other. Norslien is the 6th-grade coach, while Mike Mangold will be the 5th-grade coach. 
“We stress safety throughout the program,” said Norslien. “I feel we have an impeccable safety record in the six years we have ran the program. Other than a couple of broken arms when a kid landed on another one, we have not had any serious injuries.”
Coaches in the program must have concussion certification.
“We also limit the amount of hitting we do in practice,” added Norslien. “We are also now teaching a new style of tackling known as the rugby style. It is the same style that is taught at the Montana State youth football camp. It teaches kids not to lead with their heads when they go to tackle.
“Another safety feature of this program is there is a weight limit on who can carry the ball,” Norslien said. “A 5th-grade running back cannot weigh over 110 pounds, while a 6th-grade running back cannot weigh over 120 pounds.
“We have found our program has been a positive experience for the participants,” added Norslien. “It helps the players develop a sense of team camaraderie. Plus it helps an athlete become a better all-around athlete.”

Practices held three days a week
The first practice for the program is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 16 at the FHS practice field at 6 p.m. Practices are held each Monday, Tuesday and Thursday at the same time and place.
“We really encourage parents to come and watch practice,” said Norslien. “We also want the parents to feel as if the coaches are approachable.”
The two teams will be play six games each, held on Saturdays, during the season. There will be four away games, all played in Great Falls and two home games, played on Saturday mornings.
“We realize parents cannot always make the games,” Norslien said, “but we can find rides for kids for away games.”
The tackle football program is run through the Lewistown Boys and Girls Club. The Lewistown teams play in a league through the Great Falls Boys and Girls Club. Havre also has teams in the league. Lewistown tries to play against Havre when the Golden Eagles play Havre. Look for a complete schedule for the tackle football program in an upcoming edition of the News-Argus.
Norslien also added they try to keep the program affordable so all boys can play.  Some scholarships are also available for athletes who want to play, but their parents cannot afford it.



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