A new youth football club launching in Western Springs next year will aim to provide a new, previously-missing opportunity for elementary and middle-school kids in the Lyons Township region to play intense, competitive football.
The Lyons Football Club, ostensibly a feeder program for the football squad, will play in the Bill George League, which currently fields teams from west-suburban towns like Hinsdale, Elmhurst and Wheaton. The LFC will be the first team in the league east of I-294, and will be the only competitive program to target youth from Lyons Township.
The club is the combined brainchild of LTHS coaches and four local dads: Dave Onion and Mike Rohan, of La Grange, Marty Kearney, of Western Springs and Tim Sullivan, of La Grange Park, who collectively form the program’s inaugural Board.
“LT was looking to have their feeder program be a little more competitive,” said Rohan. “I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for a lot of kids in our area, and ultimately we’re looking to help the Lyons Township football program improve.”
Among its myriad state title banners, Lyons Township High School has never hung a football championship, despite the school’s comparatively enormous enrollment against rivals. The varsity team has seen its best-ever strides in the last two years, twice under new coach Kurt Weinberg, who has helped spur the new club into inception.
“It’ll be a crucial piece of our program,” Weinberg said of the LFC. “I think of our program as not just kids at the high school, [but] kids that will be at the high school… It’s a natural progression of what we want to do.”
The dominant club in the area for youth football for the past decade and a half has been the Western Springs Junior Football Association, through which the four founders met. The WSJFA does not keep score, and excludes players weighing more than 165 pounds.
In contrast, as part of the Bill George League, the LFC will have no weight caps on its uppermost “Varsity” division (teams are divided by weight class), and will not only keep score, but have a full standings and playoff structure, much like Little League provides for youth baseball. The new league will also start practice at the beginning of August with a five-day-a-week practice schedule.
“The kids might not make weight in the house league, or the kids who want to take it a step further and start August 1st—this is the league for those kids, those whose main focus is going on to play high school football,” said Kearney. "This will just give them another option to bring it to the next level.”
While the founders acknowledge that some at the WSJFA have not been happy to face competition for players, they insist that the programs can peacefully coexist. (Kearny and Sullivan are former WSJFA presidents.)
“We never wanted to hurt our house league,” Rohan said. “We wanted to enhance it, and one of the ways to do that is to bring in a travel team.”
“For instance, if you take the stud quarterback and put him on that travel league, it will give that other boy a chance to play quarterback in the house league,” Kearney reasoned.
The founders do underline that, although there are no tryouts, an emphasis will indeed be put on competition and hard training in the LFC. Practices are mandatory, and kids will be battling for a championship against other kids that they might later face on freshman, sophomore, junior varsity and varsity squads in high school. The club will even play on LT’s varsity turf—Bennett Field in Western Springs.
The complete details of play in the LFC can be found at their new website. Registration for the fall 2012 season is Sunday, Jan. 29., 1 to 4 p.m. at the .
“I’m really excited about this,” said Coach Weinberg. “It gives us another way of improving our program. [WSJFA] has provided great players for us, but this is another piece in our arsenal towards improving our football program.”