Kids across the Kootenays are heading to the field to play football as the Rocky Mountain Rams expand to more communities.
This year, the Kootenay Football League has teams in Cranbrook, Kimberley, Invermere, Fernie, Creston, Nelson, Trail and Castlegar.
“The KFL has really exploded in the last year and a half. We have almost 150 kids playing football from Fernie to Castlegar,” said coach Daniel Herrick. “We have a junior program, which is Grades 4 to 6, and a senior stream for Grades 7even to 9.”
Herrick said the KFL plays NFL-style five-on-five flag football.
“They take part in mini-tournaments every Sunday afternoon in various communities so everyone gets a chance to host,” said Herrick. “They have a lot of fun out there. They’re doing a lot of learning and basic skill development; we have a lot of great coaches helping them along.”
Herrick has been heavily involved in fostering the growth of a football league in the Kootenays.
“We kind of started with nothing, trying to bring back the Rams. From there, we started reaching out to other communities and places we might be able to play,” said Herrick. “We had lots of great parents, lots of coaches and people who just love football who want to see it grow where they are.”
As the kids get older and hone their skills in the sport, Herrick hopes to introduce more options for players.
“Our long-term plan with the Kootenay Football League is to see a senior tackle division in various communities. Then branch that down to a younger tackle league, a flag league and some camps in the spring,” explained Herrick.
For now, the only full-contact team in the Kootenays is based in Cranbrook, with players from Grades 9 to 12.
They only play exhibition games for now, as they are not part of any formal league, which Herrick hopes to change.
“The dream is not to have to travel around and find all these exhibition games but to have a league that is sustained in our area. I think that would go a long way to keep football alive,” said Herrick.
“If we can sustain a league that’s more regional and give kids a chance to get on the field and be a part of a football team, that’s what we’re going after.”
Herrick is hopeful for the sport’s future in the region, as the league has seen a warm welcome from communities it expands into.
“We have great parents involved, too. They’re recruiting other people and finding resources for us and doing what they can to make sure their kids can keep playing,” said Herrick.
“The future is looking good. We have a ton of kids in that grade seven to nine range, so we’re trying to find ways to keep them in the program.”
The Kootenay Football League will conclude its season on Oct. 15 with a flag football tournament.
“It will all culminate in Cranbrook with playoffs and championships for the Kootenay Bowl,” said Herrick. “The teams have been building up to that. The kids have a ton of fun, and in that last weekend, you can see the competitiveness come out and they play really hard for that trophy.”
Registration for the current season is closed, but the Rocky Mountain Rams football program is preparing for spring training.
If you want to get involved as a volunteer or have kids who want to play, you can visit the website below.