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Travel football nears red zone
County must still approve new policy
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Forsyth County News


Youth travel football is on its way to having a home in Forsyth County.

After much discussion with parents, the county's parks and recreation board approved a travel football policy at its Tuesday meeting.

The board's recommendation will next go to the county commission for final approval.

The county currently works with the Forsyth County Youth Football Association, which has about 2,800 kids participating in football and cheerleading.

Staff met with football parents over several months before deciding that travel teams could be allowed to also join with the county parks and recreations department under certain guidelines.

Wayne Maddox, manager of the department's athletics division, said the policy will allow travel teams to use county fields if they meet the requirements and if space is available.

As approved Tuesday, the policy calls for teams of 17 to 22 players for fifth through seventh grades. One team will be allowed per grade level for each high school district.

The policy also lays forth several other requirements.

It's the provision that states "if an acceptable facility is available" that could pose the biggest barrier.

The youth football association, the current parks partner, contends the fields are full. One parent said the organization's cheerleaders have been practicing in a parking lot.

Maddox acknowledged the county's available field space isn't enough to easily accommodate travel football teams.

"Our biggest need right now is additional rectangle fields," Maddox said. "I believe that we could find field space. It would take some adjusting."

Maddox added that from what he's heard, few teams plan to form for travel football in the near future.

Tommy Jones, president of the West Forsyth Youth Football Association, showed his support for the policy Tuesday.

Players in his competitive travel organization currently practice in nearby Milton and play in the North Metro Football League.

Jones said he's looking to secure local field space for Saturday home games.

West Forsyth league representative John Wirth said bringing the program to the county will expand opportunities for youth football players.

"There's a demand for this kind of program in this county," he said. "The kids want to play competitive-level football."

Jeff Stephens, a Sharon Springs youth football representative, said the addition of travel football teams could pull children from current offerings, which provide competitive play and a "community environment."

Stephens worried that a trend he has seen with baseball, where players leave the county to find another option for travel ball, could unfold.

After hearing both sides, the parks board voted 3-1 to approve the policy. Chris Stovall cast the opposing vote.

"I'm just concerned that we'll open Pandora's box by letting some organizations use the fields when we don't have the space for the growth, much less the existing population," Stovall said.

New member Todd Holbrook, appointed by the county commission earlier in the day, abstained from the vote.

Chairwoman Charlotte Gardner said she hoped that " these things all work themselves out."

"We want all the children to play," she said.