The ongoing resurgence of youth football on Bainbridge Island continued recently, as the Bainbridge Island Junior Football Association announced it has joined the highly regarded Greater Eastside Junior Football Association.
Formed in 1963 to provide contact football in a program that respects the Boys & Girls Club philosophy, the Greater Eastside Junior Football Association serves youth players between the ages of 8 and 14 and is widely considered one of the top youth football leagues in the state of Washington. It is known for its focus on safe play, sportsmanship, player development, fun and playing time for all.
Bainbridge Island Junior Football Association president Shawn O’Neill and Bainbridge High School varsity football team Head Coach Jeff Rouser have been working with Greater Eastside Junior Football Association officials to ensure shared philosophies and approaches — including shared playbooks, safety, similar uniforms, instruction and drill — to best prepare the islands youth for a successful and safe experience.
“Our efforts and hope have always been to rebuild a stellar program on our island,” Rouser said. “It will be especially gratifying to see the high school programs success ignite the same in the youth program, which in turn, has played a very strong part of preparing many of the top players on our team today.”
The BHS varsity team won their conference by going undefeated last season, and recently learned the efforts have seen them moved up to a higher division. And, with the resulting recent surge in the high school program in terms of participation numbers and performance, the level of excitement regarding football on the island in general, Rouser said, continues.
“Coach Rouser and his staff have done a great job with the high school program and we hope that the bond between island youth football and the high school program continues to get stronger ever year,” O’Neill said.
“Although our youth tackle registrations have declined in recent years, there is no doubt that our youth players have taken note of the surge of success by the high school football program,” he added. “We are hopeful that being part of a GEFJA, a well-established league with an excellent reputation and a 56-year operating history, will spark a surge in registrations for the upcoming season. There is an electrifying atmosphere at BHS stadium on football Friday nights – it is clear our island still loves football and the younger players want to be part of that excitement.”
The Greater Eastside Junior Football Association is structured as “age/weight” league, with five different playing levels; Rookie, Cub, Sophomore, Junior Varsity and Varsity.
There are 23 independent franchised clubs that comprise the league.
Youth football has been part of the island community for many decades and the return to the ranks of the Greater Eastside Junior Football Association is, O’Neill said, a big step toward improving the quality of play and the overall experience.
Player registration is currently open. Visit www.bifootball.org to learn more.