Prior Lake Football

The Prior Lake football team has made the state tournament four times since 2011.

The game of football has changed dramatically over the past few years and through proper education and training, the safety and quality of the game have improved tremendously.

The game of football is under attack in the media and is the most scrutinized sport in terms of safety. There are a lot of other sports and activities out there with a higher injury rate. However, football remains the most scrutinized.

I'm writing to say the game of football has changed, especially here in Prior Lake. We take every player's safety as the highest priority and believe we have taken the necessary steps to improve the safety and the quality of the game. It is true that football is a physical sport, but through education and best practice, we are working extremely hard to improve the safety and quality of our football program here.

Prior Lake has adopted USA Football's “Heads Up Football” model, and we are one of the only communities in Minnesota to have all coaches, from third grade through varsity certified. Any coach who steps on the field will be certified in concussion recognition, sudden cardiac arrest, heat/hydration, equipment fitting, proper tackling/blocking techniques and best practice for setting up practices.

Gone are the days of limiting water breaks and full contact drills throughout practice. In Prior Lake, we have implemented practice plans at every level, which emphasize proper technique and safety with limited contact in practices. This has dramatically decreased issues with concussions or injury at all levels in practice and games and we are able to do this without sacrificing the quality of what we do.

USA Football has changed the way we do things and been a game changer for our community. We firmly believe in developing all players at every level and we need as many players to be involved at every level for us to be successful.

Our community offers flag football for first and second graders and tackle football for third through eighth grade through Prior Lake Athletics for Youth, along with the high school team.

This year we are excited to announce a bridge year in third grade and introduce USA Football’s “Rookie Tackle." That will provide a great transition from flag football to tackle.

In third grade, it will still be tackle football, but the game will be on a smaller field and consist of eight on eight instead of 11 on 11.

Rookie tackle has many rules to promote skill development for all players and improve safety. We are extremely excited about that program and are confident it will provide more opportunity for more players to get involved in football.

Football is a numbers game and we need as many boys from our community to participate to give us the best chance to be highly competitive and achieve the success we all want. We wish every boy in the school district played football and, if you have never played football before, we encourage you to give it a shot.

If you used to play football and do not play anymore, we encourage you to come back out and give it another try.

As a football program, we want our players playing multiple sports and there is no substitute for competition. Even more, college recruiters of all sports want multiple sport athletes, so our advice is to play as many sports as possible for as long as you can.

Sport specialization is not the answer and there is too much pressure for specialization in youth and high school sports. Playing multiple sports will produce better overall athletes and allows athletes to be coached by different coaches and compete in a different venues.

The Prior Lake football program has established itself as one of the top programs in the state. Over the past seven years, we have won two conference titles and have been to the state tournament four times. We continue to be one of the teams to beat year in and year out and if we can increase our participation at every grade level, we will continue our success for years to come.

We pride ourselves on success, but not just on the field. Our program continues to promote the philosophy of “Livin’ Right,” which promotes positive guidelines to living a positive lifestyle for our players.

As a program, we take an active stance on the expectations we place on our players who want to be part of the program. “Livin Right” focuses on academics, leadership, school and community pride, commitment and social choices. The more players we have on board with our philosophy, the more success we will have both on and off the field.

This philosophy promotes a winning culture. We also believe we create a brotherhood and family atmosphere like no other and being part of our program is being part of something special.

As the head football coach in Prior Lake, as a parent of three boys in our youth football program, and as a believer in what the game of football can provide for athletes, I encourage every boy in our school district to get involved and be part our program.

I believe in our program, our coaches at every level, and how USA Football has changed our program for the better.

For more on the Prior Lake football, go to www.priorlakefootball.com or email head coach Matt Gegenheimer at mgegenheimer@priorlake-savage.k12.mn.us.

Tom Schardin covers sports for Savage and Prior Lake. He is dependable, sarcastic and always joking around. Tom enjoys running and swimming and is often busy coaching his two kids' sports teams.

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