Learning the game
By By DAN WEISS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Fall is football time and for many youngsters this fall was the first time they were able to play organized football thanks to the Niles Rocket Football program.
The program, started 10 years ago with one team and 20 players, has grown to include more than 200 children ages eight to 12 and now has eight teams.
The Southwest Michigan Rocket Football League, which the Niles program is a member of, includes a Minor Division and a Major Division. The Minor Division consists of players ages eight to nine and 10-year-olds weighing less than 115 pounds. The Major Division includes ages 11-12 and 10-year-olds more than 115 pounds.
Rocket Football also includes a participation rule requiring every player to be in on at least four plays per half not including kicks and punts. Also, each team is allowed to have one coach on the field and in the huddle both on offense and defense, for instructing purposes.
When Niles High School varsity football coach Dave Janicki arrived in Niles almost four years ago, he recognized the impact the Rocket program has on youngsters and made a point of offering his assistance.
With that in mind, the varsity players join the Rocket players nearly every Saturday morning before games to cheer them on and offer some inspiration.
On Friday, Oct. 17, the Rocket Football teams will be recognized at halftime of the varsity game against Dowagiac. The Rocket players will make a tunnel for the varsity team before the game and Janicki has invited all the Rocket players and their fathers into the locker room for the postgame speech and to see the varsity players.