The ages old dilemma of which league format — grade level placement or age/weight assignment — is best in youth league tackle football continues to haunt the Payson program.
For years, Payson was a member of the Northern Arizona Youth Football Association and the Central Arizona Youth Football Association, and players were assigned teams based on age and weight. That process was similar to what Pop Warner does nationwide.
For example, there was a Mitey Mite league for 7- to 9-year-olds who weighed 45 to 90 pounds.
Similar classifications were made for all divisions through 14-years and weights up to 140 pounds.
Among the teams Payson played while in those associations were Prescott, Camp Verde, Cottonwood, Prescott and Flagstaff.
But in 2009, Payson moved out of CAYFA and NAYFA and into a White Mountain area youth league that placed players onto teams by grade level.
That’s similar to what the White Mountain youth league does in middle school/junior high football with each league member fielding a seventh- and eighth-grade team in which weight or age (as long as the athlete is under 15-years) is not considered as long as the player is a student at the school.
With that move, Payson played against Show Low, Snowflake, Pinetop-Lakeside, Round Valley and other schools in the eastern part of the state.
In 2010, Payson teams departed the White Mountain League and returned to the Northern Arizona Football League where players were assigned teams according to age and weight classifications.
For 2011, the musical-chair Payson program jumps back into the White Mountain league — now called Northeastern Arizona Youth Football — and will return to playing Show Low, Pinetop-Lakeside, Snowflake, Winslow and Round Valley.
In that league, players will be assigned to teams by their school grade levels.
So what’s behind the reversal of philosophies as each season goes by?
“Our board voted to go back to the grade-based system as it is much safer and puts players on the same experience level as other players,” said Payson Youth League officer Daniel Way. “They are playing with classmates and friends.”
Way maintains that his goal is to work with the schools “to teach youth the proper fundamentals of football, getting them ready to blend into the Longhorn (program) to help develop strong teams as they go through the grades.”
Parents meet today
With the switch, Payson is gearing up for what Way predicts, “will be another great season” which kicks off at 6:30 p.m. today, June 21, with a parents’ meeting at Rumsey Park’s Ramada 4.
There, parents may sign up their children for upcoming play. The meeting will also offer parents the opportunity to “have a voice,” said Way.
Other registrations will be held 9 a.m. to noon June 25, July 9 and July 23 at Chapman Auto Center. The registration fee has increased this year from $100 to $125 because, “we need to replace some safety equipment this year,” said Way. However, parents who register their children today or on June 25 will receive a $25 discount for early registration. Those who sign up on July 9 or after will be charged the full $125 fee. The advantage of registering early, said Way, is to save money and be placed on a team before rosters fill up. For more information, call Way at (928) 978-6560.