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Poplarville pee wee football team wins championship

Poplarville’s youth football team brought home a district championship title this year in a league that is developing the next generation of varsity football standouts.

Football is a physical sport full of technicalities and intricacies, some of which can be hard to understand.

To help with that learning process, young children can join pee wee football teams to gain experience and learn the basics of the game.

Some teams start with players as young as 5-years-old, but the Poplarville Rookies won a championship this year with a team was made up of 7- and 8-year-olds. Even with the title win, Head Coach Ryan Gamber said there’s still plenty for his young players to learn.

Gamber has been coaching baseball and football for years as his two sons grew up.

The former Marine holds his players to high standards in spite of their young age.  Gamber said his tough coaching style allowed the team to go 9-0 this past season and defeat the Sumrall Bobcats 34-0 for the championship title on Nov. 23.

“We do have talent, speed and size, but I am hard on them. I treat every one of them like they’re my kid,” Gamber said.

The no-nonsense approach paid off for the team as it dominated opponents all season in the team’s youth league.

Due to having a limited number of players, the majority of athletes had to play offense and defense.

To prepare his players for the rigors of playing on both sides of the ball, Gamber starts workouts for his players during the summer, so when the season comes around the athletes are well conditioned and able to play however many snaps are necessary.

“We meet up in July and start getting in shape. We have this sand area and I’ll have them do sprints in the sand, push ups in the sand. When it comes to being in shape that kind of stuff helps us,” Gamber said.

Gamber and the other coaches are responsible not only for teaching the basics of the game to the youngsters, but also preparing them for future athletic opportunities.

It’s no small task to begin grooming the next generation of talent at such a young age, but for Gamber that’s what the job is all about. “For the most part I try to get my coaches to have them ready for school ball. Even though they’re only 8, teaching them now not to tackle with your head, hit with your shoulder,” Gamber said.

An element of safety is involved as well since football is such a physical game.  Teaching the players proper technique when it comes to tackling is just one of the safety focused lessons Gamber tries to teach.

Gamber knows the responsibility he has when it comes to making sure his athletes play football safely.

Those responsibilities can be heavy at times for Gamber and the other coaches.

“It means a lot. Sometimes it’s stressful because there’s a lot of pressure. My biggest thing is safety and learning the game,” Gamber said.

The kids are young and still learning as much about the world around them as they are about themselves.

Gamber understands the position the athletes are in and tries to make sure they understand how doing things right on the football field can translate to daily life.

“Every kid on my team learns that you have to work for what you want. Nothing is given, there were plenty of times I had to tell them that. This is what you have to do be great,” Gamber said.