School wants to invest in youth program first, then return to varsity football in a few years
King’s Way Christian has put its high school football program on hiatus.
“We are taking a two-year pause for high school football so we can reinvest the budget dollars into our youth, so we can start developing an actual program instead of just a varsity team,” said Brad Butterworth, the school’s athletic director.
The decision was made last week. Athletes wishing to play are likely to be allowed to play for the public schools in the boundary in which they live.
Butterworth said it has been like coaches and school officials have been “chasing their own tails” in the past 10 years, with five different head coaches. In a few of those years, the small private school that opts up to play in Class 1A has had no problem finding enough players to field a quality varsity team. But in most of those years, it has been a struggle. And there has never been an organized push to develop younger Knights, Butterworth said.
A couple of years ago, there were 10 eighth-graders who played organized football. Only two came out for football when they were freshmen, Butterworth said.
“It’s never been set up for the football coach to be successful,” Butterworth said. “That’s not the fault of the coach.”
Brian Rodriguez, the head coach the past two seasons, is no longer with King’s Way Christian, Butterworth confirmed. Rodriguez respectfully declined comment for this story.
Butterworth said he will be hiring a football coordinator to oversee the building of the program. The goal is two years of no high school football, then a sub-varsity team in Year 3 of this plan, and a return to varsity football in Year 4.
King’s Way Christian officials traveled to Tennessee for a conference with other small, private schools. One of the issues discussed was developing a football program. After hearing from successful programs, King’s Way officials were convinced that a program must start at the younger levels first.
Butterworth said the Knights want to build a program for the next 60 years, not the next 60 days.
With the uncertainty of any football this fall due to the pandemic, and with many of the team’s top athletes transferring or considering a transfer, Butterworth said it was clear this fall was going to be a challenge anyway.
“When you look at the numbers of what we lost with transfers, with Covid, all that did was shine a light on the issue,” Butterworth said. “We need to focus on what we can control. We can control building an experience for young kids so they can enjoy playing football one day at King’s Way, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
King’s Way Christian opened its football field behind the campus buildings in 2012. Last year, the school had a grand opening for its grandstands, with students from kindergarten through high school in attendance, packing the place.
A year later, the stadium will be empty on Friday nights.
Temporarily, Butterworth said.
“The long-term goal is to set the path for the next 60 years,” Butterworth said.
And when football returns, he said he hopes that when young football players will be in those grandstands watching varsity, they will see 40 to 45 players in uniform, not 20.
It starts with the youth program, Butterworth said.
And the restart starts now.