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Middle school football near? Perhaps. Maybe. Kind of.

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 SHEPHERDSVILLE – Does Bullitt County need middle school football?

You bet.

Is Bullitt County going to get middle school football?

That question is not so easy to answer.

What is probably a given is that we are not going to get middle school football in the traditional sense anytime soon. That being teams at each of the six local middle schools with local fields and coaches in the building and such.

The Bullitt County Board of Education just does not have the stomach, nor wallet size, for that situation at the present time. Even if they did, there are other needs at the high school level in terms of facilities for athletics that need greater attention at this point.

I could write two pages here on why we need true middle school football (and volleyball and soccer etc.), but that is just not going to happen in Bullitt County on a large scale in my lifetime.  

What is being discussed is some sort of ‘hybrid’ middle school football program – sort of a combined effort between the three high school football programs and the Greater Bullitt County Youth Football League.

In the past few weeks, meetings have been held with ideas being discussed. Nothing firm has been finalized.

I do know that for at least the past two seasons, when I interview GBCYFL president Joe Downs at the beginning of each season, he has mentioned that the league has had discussions about forming more along a middle school style alignment, either for the older players, or for the entire league.

Over the past several seasons, the GBCYFL has formed its All-Star teams around three ‘high school’ names with three programs within each ‘high school’ name. (example – All-Stars from Old Mill, Mount Washington and Pleasant Grove were the ‘East’ All-Stars). 

Moving to a middle school alignment is a tough sell for Downs. At this point, the league is formed into nine little fiefdoms that are based on elementary school boundaries that haven’t existed for over a decade. Fund-raising, sign-ups, coaching hires etc. are handled by the nine programs within the league. The GBCYFL basically just handles the field (including concessions and post-season trophies) and game situations (referees, rules, weight limits etc.). The GBCYFL also holds the tax-exempt certificate that is used by the nine teams.

Downs is elected by the nine programs. He can’t just decree a new format without a lot of support. 

Some of the programs within the league have been in existence for over 30 years. Just shutting down those programs (either completely or at the middle school level) and starting six new ones is not something to be taken lightly. Football is not a cheap sport and stepping into the great unknown is not something many people like to do.

But it has to be done. The sooner the better. While high school football has been successful at times locally, it won’t get any better under the present arrangement.

Something has to be done. The youth football season includes too many games (some players competed in 13 games this season with 11 in the season and two All-Star games) and practice starts way too early (July 1 the past few seasons). A small handful of teams played full games on back-to-back days at the end of the regular season with the ‘play-in games’.

Even more troublesome is the great roster disparities within the league. There were teams within the league this year with 40 or more roster members while some of the other programs had 15 names or even fewer. Over the past five years, different age groups at Lebanon Junction and Brooks have had to either disband before the season started because of a lack of numbers or have forfeited games within the season.

Amazingly, league rules allowed teams to start games with 11 players, but also allowed games to continue with less than 11 players if someone got hurt.

A change to a middle school alignment would eliminate this situation

But the GBCYFL needs to listen to the suggestions coming from above.

First, the GBCYFL fields are located on land leased from the Board of Education. Most, but not all, of the league teams hold practices on school property. For good or bad, the league is beholden to the Board of Education, like it or not.

If thereare people within the league now feeling ‘pinched’ by the high school football programs asking them to make changes, just imagine the feeling if the big ‘third party’ gets involved.

There is a lot of middle ground here. We need to find it and we need to find it now.