Two things I would like to point out this week and a few feel-good stories also.
Last week, the Herald Sun published a story regarding the East Sandy Zebras and the grading practices for their Under 11 teams. There was some negativity with it, so I thought it was necessary to remind our members of our team grading practices and that Hampton Rovers do this from Under 12s. Let me explain why.
In Under 8s to Under 10s, it’s all about being with friends, learning new skills and falling in love with footy in a modified rule format. Our players are kept together in school friendship groups and we entrust our coaches, armed with the knowledge that it’s important to offer equal game time in all positions. It’s about FUN, FUN and FUN.
In Under 11s, the rules allow for a non-modified structure. It can be a bit change, depending on the boys and girls experience.
Under 12 is more often the last year of primary school for our players. Local clubs are keen to keep numbers together for future longevity for participation. To do this, it is important to keep all children in their current silo of development. Grading can be seen as elitist to some, but in fact it is not. It is about protecting the child from exposure of non-participation, forcing a child to play in a high, inappropriate division when they are not ready to is plain unfair and will mean he or she will leave the sport as we have seen many times.
This year, when it came to grading the Under 12 squad, it became clear that we needed to establish a fourth team. With Julian Sill, we knew that we wanted to ensure that our third and fourth U12 teams were balanced. We want to ensure that we keep kids in the game for as long as they find it enjoyable. To create these two, balanced teams, 10 players came over from East Sandringham. Aaron McIntosh (Squad Manager), Julian, Alisdair, Kane, Wayne and Steve worked wonders, in a short timeframe, to create four teams and get the 80+ children onto the park.
As mentioned Goldy and Brandon are all in. Well done all.
2. East Sandringham / Rovers Merge
In 2015, Stu Murray was coaching the Rovers U16 Div 2 and I was coaching East Sandy U16 in Div 1. We were both light on for numbers, but had enough for two teams if we brought the teams together. This is what we did. Players that had drifted from footy saw the fun the guys were having. Many new and familiar faces came back. By the end of the season, we had a squad of 54 players having started with 41. Fast forward and between East Sandringham and Rovers, we had strong D1 and D3 teams that both played finals, with many APS lads amongst them. It was really all about keeping numbers on the park and the lads had a ball.
In 2021 we have 2 x U15 teams, 2 X U16, 2 x U17.5 teams and many girls that are registered to their home club (either Rovers or East Sandringham) but play for either club depending on where the balance of numbers sits.
In years gone by the two clubs were fierce rivals. When we play each other it’s still the case with plenty of respect also shown, and our committees are in constant communication.
Yes, several teams have gone on and won premierships in the merge arrangement. This to me is a bonus. Offering club footy in a safe, harmonious environment is what it is about. Seeing many lads staying in the game, and playing U19s and then seniors is wonderful for the community. From the 2015 squad, close to 10 players are playing senior football with 6 to 7 regular senior players.
We have more than 45 players who are part of the current U19 squad, playing in the Victorian Amateur Football Association, with 85% coming through the merge. These are wonderful numbers for the senior club for years to come.
In discussion with Lisa Beavan, the Squad Manager for the U17.5, I asked Lisa what her thoughts were with the merge. She is unequivocal in her support of the merge from Under 15s as player numbers start to drop due to many kids playing with their schools.
Lisa said that the core of community football is that every child should have the opportunity to play footy and play it in their correct division and the merge allows that flexibility.
Lisa’s advice for future Under 15s about to merge? Get on the front foot early. Depending on who the team is managed by, find someone from the other club who will supply you with every parent email address to communicate clearly the process going forward. We have 60 kids playing for Under 17s in two teams in a nearly 50/50 split between the two clubs. This is a brilliant result and something that would not have been possible had the merge not occurred as some kids would have been left behind.
I reached out to Andrew Keys, father of James, for his take on what the families from East Sandringham have witnessed. Andrew said: The merge has worked extremely well. Participation is strong, the boys are happy and have a connection with the seniors due to the excellent coaching of Ryan Fogarty. At senior home games on a Saturday this connection is noticeable with an increasing number of the U17 boys watching the seniors.
We are still fielding two U17 teams in a league where most clubs are struggling to field one team at this age level. We still have many APS and AGS boys who are playing for their school on Saturday and trying and succeeding to play for Rovers on Sunday because they enjoy the atmosphere and their connections at Rovers.
Three years into our Rovers – Zebs merger and the parents are extremely happy as well. The boys are still playing community sport and they have maintained and extended their friendship group.
Strong endorsement, I am sure you agree!!!
When the merge teams win both club songs are sung. The merge jumper has both club logos on it and the squad photos are treasured. The senior players get involved with coaching; they bring a youthful vibe and technical knowledge that most dads that played in the ‘80s and ‘90s may not appreciate.
I witnessed some great footy Sunday – from modified rules U12 Girls, to U13 Boys at Castlefield, then the U14 lads late in the arvo. What a great day.
Tim Sutherland was pumped when I spoke with him after his game at Boss James. His starlets (U12G) had just sung the song after beating a Prahran team that had won large the week before. When Tim told me the girls kicked 9 goals straight, I asked if they were available to come down and teach the U16 D1 boys how to kick goals (just kidding…but they did kick 5.12).
Tim said the main message was: pressure, second efforts, belief, we back ourselves, hunger for the ball and great spirit. I love his passion. Wonderful stuff mate.
The U14 squad had a win and a bye. The D1 was close to full strength and showed what a great committed team effort can do.
I left Castlefield around 4.30pm and took the dog for a walk on the beach. What a weekend. DID I MENTION CARLTON WON?
HAMPTON, LOVE OUR COMMUNITY
Always remember, PASSION TEAMWORK FUN RESPECT