The days of playing high school football only during the fall season have been long over thanks to the maturation of 7-on-7 tournaments during the offseason.
Schools all over the country have bought into the summer tournaments as a time to keep the students proactive and out of trouble while fostering team chemistry, confidence and sportsmanship.
On Saturday, the Miami Dolphins hosted their own tournament at Central Park in Plantation with 64 teams from 44 schools vying for a chance to represent South Florida in the 2013 NFL High School Player Development national championships in Cleveland on July 11-14.
Central, Jackson, Carol City, Booker T. Washington, Miramar, Boyd Anderson, Monarch and Dwyer advanced to Sunday’s championship games at Sun Life Stadium.
Jackson coach Antonio Brown said the tournaments help players improve their physical conditioning and to stay out of trouble. In addition to practice time during the week, “we pretty much got them under wraps the whole weekend.”
“I’m pretty sure if they were writing essays right now, they wouldn’t want to do it,” Brown said. “But no matter the circumstances, you playing some football and they’ll play this all day.”
For powerhouse Booker T. Washington, assistant coach Tim Harris Jr. said 7-on-7 events — which are played within 40 yards and scoring consists of seven points for a touchdown and three for an interception — allows players to begin the fall season on top of their game with polished formations and route running.
“With the type of schedule we play year in and year out, we have to keep a competitive edge,” Harris said. “We try to go to as many of these as possible throughout the summer because it closes the gap with all the little things.”
Dillard defensive back coach Joseph Ballaid said these opportunities gives his players even more of an incentive to practice every day and a chance to represent their school.
“With idle time, a lot of kids especially in the inner city and inner city schools, they tend to get in trouble so it keeps them out of it,” Ballaid said.
For South Plantation coach Douglas Gatewood, his young team is getting a head start on gaining experience and replenishing the program after graduating more than 30 seniors this school year.
“Instead of [playing] 10 games during the season, the tournaments provide a chance for teams to play upwards of 30 games during the offseason,” Gatewood said. “It’s a chance to see a lot of teams we’ll probably never see.”
While most defenses only field defensive backs and safeties, Miami Killian assistant Derrick Lordeus also brings his linebackers to the tournaments to help improve their pass coverage skills. Saturday’s tournament also gave his bench players a chance to “emerge” and be seen “in a different light” with several starters away on visits at college campuses.
More importantly, Carol City assistant Andre Stafford said the competition helps foster players’ self esteem.
Hill’s fast impact
Stafford said the addition of former Carol City wide receiver Aubrey Hill as coach has been a big plus to the program with overwhelming community support.
“Everyone loves it,” Stafford said.