Are you ready for some Football?
Every Saturday morning dozens and dozens of Blue Earth families pile into the family car and head to Mankato.
They are not going for a day of shopping, enjoying a movie or eating at a favorite restaurant.
No, they are traveling north to watch the Buccaneers play some football.
While many of them may have been at the high school version of Bucs football the night before at Wilson Field, on Saturday the are headed to watch a little smaller version of the Buccaneers.
Blue Earth has five teams competing in the Mankato-North Mankato Youth Football League. There is a third grade, fourth grade, fifth grade and two sixth grade Buccaneer teams playing in games every Saturday morning for six weeks or so in the fall.
“We’ve been involved with this program for about 10 years now,” Blue Earth Area High School activities director Rob Norman says.
Norman helps coach the fourth grade team that his son is on. But, he is not involved in his official capacity as athletic director.
“The BEA schools are not involved in this at all,” he explains. “This is done through a group of parents called the Blue Earth Area Youth Football Association.”
The teams compete in games held at either South Central College in North Mankato or at Mankato East High School.
However, their practice sessions, held several evenings during the week, are in Blue Earth, at the high school football practice field.
“The Mankato-North Mankato league really treats us well,” Norman says. “They let us keep all our kids together on a team, instead of scattering them out among all the teams.”
What that means is that the Blue Earth teams can practice at home, and parents don’t have to haul their kids to Mankato three nights a week for practice.
Plus, the Blue Earth teams are all allowed to be called Buccaneers. That has not always been the case. In the past they had names like Buckeyes.
The other Mankato-North Mankato teams sport names such as Vikings, Packers, Steelers and other pro and college team mascots. And, their jerseys, which reflect those famous team’s colors, are sponsored by Mankato area businesses.
For the Buccaneers, parents raised money to purchase all of the uniforms for all the Blue Earth teams.
“The association will keep the uniforms and reuse them from year to year,” Norman says.
He adds that he feels Mankato-North Mankato really runs a nice program.
“They promote having the kids have fun,” he says. “They do things like rotate kids in and out halfway through each quarter, so every kid gets a chance to play. And, they like to have kids play at different positions, so everyone has a chance to try each position at least once.”
Norman admits that while having kids as young as third graders wearing pads and helmets and playing tackle football is a bit of concern, he sees it as good activity overall.
“I do worry about young kids getting hurt,” he says. “And I worry that a kid might get tackled or blocked hard and that might put them off playing football forever. Some places don’t let kids wear pads or do tackling until fifth grade and that’s alright, too.”
Blue Earth is not the only city that participates in the Mankato-North Mankato program. Both Fairmont and St. Peter also do, although not always in the lower grades.
“It is pretty fun, for the parents and the kids,” Norman says. “Hopefully parents are just encouraging their young players and are not critical. I always hope they say something like, ‘Man, it sure was fun watching you play in this game today. Hope you had fun doing it.'”