Flier Football remains 11-man

Discussion was held on whether to change Flandreau’s football program from 11-man to 9-man, due to low numbers of participants, but no action to do this was done at the most recent Flandreau School Board meeting. Enterprise file photo

Any given fall, there are approximately 25-28 young men that choose to hit the field as part of the Flandreau Fliers Football Program. The numbers have been in this range for years, according to head coach Derek Genzlinger, and just about anyone that’s been a part of the program will tell you, it’s been tough.
Schools of similar size, or at least in Flandreau’s same conference, often have nearly twice that number to pick from. Depth on the bench offers those teams more options, more rest for their athletes, fewer injuries, and ultimately as a result, more wins.
The trend has had some families and coaches formally considering the switch to a 9-man team. It was formally presented to Flandreau’s School Board this past week. But most players, coaches and families don’t want to see that change. At least not yet.
“I’m very excited to continue playing 11-man football, but I would be excited for any decision because I love coaching our young men here in Flandreau,” said Genzlinger. “We have a very talented 8th grade class moving up to help continue building our culture and foundation and our upperclassmen have been working toward continuing to develop our program.”
Part of the reason for the discussion about a 9-man team now, is that there is an even greater dip in participation coming up through the ranks, especially where the lineman are concerned. The team looks to be very young in two years and there may be no JV team. It will force some underclassmen to play early. Parents have voiced concerns about the injuries their sons may suffer as a result.
But moving to a 9-man team offers unique challenges as well, Genzlinger said. There are fewer schools to play against and often at much greater distances, it would require an entirely different and new set of schemes on both sides of the ball, and perhaps weighed most heavily, it would take away any chance the players could aim for the playoffs for a two-year period. And in two years, the team hopes to have stronger numbers participating again.
As for injury prevention, coaches say they do very little live tackling in practice and what is done is controlled in a tackling drill.
“We have done a good job with preventing concussions the best we can; I believe we had two last year and one the year before that. Most of our injuries this past year were bad luck or out of our control, for example a broken hand, broken finger, a non-contact ACL, things of that nature.”
“We work very hard to get our kids in the weight room to help prevent injuries and that is the biggest way to help prevent injuries, but some just happen, and we cannot control it. That is no different in football compared to other sports, you have a risk of getting injured in anything you do,” Genzlinger said.
He added that the team’s equipment is top of the line and the athletes get new helmets and pads every single season to protect them.
A meeting between parents, coaches and school officials was held prior to the conversation with the board and a poll was taken amongst participating students and families. All of it was taken into consideration and discussed.
Jeremiah Peterson, one of only two parents currently involved with the program and in the audience during the school board meeting, feels strongly that the board made the right decision. His son will be a junior next year and he believes the team could have a great season. He and others would have hated to see the boys not even have a shot at the playoffs, if that’s the case.
“What’s the point if there is nothing at the end of the season that you’re playing for,” he told the Moody County Enterprise.
He’s also encouraged to hear that the school and the team staff plan to look at ways to better promote the program as a whole starting with a youth program that will keep kids engaged, active and on the field through high school. Having played the sport himself while in school in Flandreau, he hopes to see the program succeed and bring people back out the way that it used to.
“It’s tough as a community to support these programs that are struggling but that’s one thing I’ve talked with other parents about…15 years ago, the stands were full. It means a lot as a kid, coming out, playing and the environment of having full stands and full support behind them. There is support behind them now, but it’s dropped off. I wish the community could get back on board to be out. Friday night lights, you should be at the game!”
Genzlinger thanks Athletic Director Rick Weber for his guidance through the conversation, saying that it was a long process and one that was not taken lightly. He also wanted to thank the parents and athletes for their feedback throughout the process. “Any information we’ve received, was all taken into consideration. Whether the decision was the one they wanted or not we valued their opinion and will continue to use it to better develop the program.”

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