The Future of Football at Chamblee

Camille Crumbley and Kieran Ferguson

Playing a sport is one of many popular extracurricular choices, but for students at Chamblee Middle School, football will no longer be an option. Beginning this year, Chamblee Middle School’s football team has been disbanded due to a lack of students to play for the school.

“At Murphey Candler, like the Atlanta Colts League [another recreational team], they extended their league up to eighth grade players to counteract how Dunwoody dropped their league for middle school, so Murphey Candler then extended their league up to eighth grade,” said former club player and current senior football team member Brandon Lambert. “So, therefore, all the kids that would be playing at Chamblee Middle [play] at the Colts’ facility [instead].”

The result is a three-year training gap, during which students will be missing out on pivotal development time for their skills. According to newly instated CCHS football coach James Wallace, this could be detrimental to interested athletes as they transition to high school.

“[Playing in middle school] is part of the structure, part of the progression,” he said. “Playing with kids your own age, learning the game before you have to play with big, strong, and fast kids at the high school level. It’s just a matter of the progression of learning the game and if you miss a couple years of that, that’s not gonna bode well for you in the future.”

Traditionally, the relationship between middle and high school is “a feeder situation,” according to the football coach and math teacher Clifton Momon.

“The players from middle school come to high school having gotten some experience from the middle school and bring that experience to high school and improve from there,” said Momon. “So if you’ve got players from the middle school having not played, they enter high school without that experience and it sets your program back.”

The absence of a middle school program may not be entirely supplemented by participation in recreational leagues.

“Just playing and getting more experience helps because you know what you’re doing more and kind of getting integrated into how school football works, more than a rec league where you might not have practice every day or you might not do morning practice or extra practice and you have to balance school with it,” said football player Stuart Steele.

In an effort to provide continuity for the program, students from the middle school that was adamant about playing tried out to play JV with the high school team. Currently, two middle schoolers come and practice at CCHS.

“They’re benefiting from coming up here with us,” said Wallace. “They’re learning a lot more, getting integrated into the system. They’re getting used to playing with bigger and stronger players which will benefit them as they become bigger and stronger.”

Wallace was disappointed that more students do not come from the middle school.

“All the other kids who didn’t even bother to come up to the high school, even if they were good before, a couple years without football, and they’re not progressing, so it’s gonna hurt. I just wish more kids had come up,” said Wallace. “Honestly, I don’t think it’s hurting us this year, not having a middle school team, but two years from now it’s gonna hurt us because those kids are losing years of football that they would have otherwise played.”

However, Chamblee has a history of having football players start playing in high school. This has been a handicap to the team and contributed to their 0-8 losing streak.

“We get a lot of kids that play football for the first time in the 10th, 11th, 12th grade,” said Wallace. “They’ve never played football before in their lives and they think, ‘It’s easy! I can go out and do it,’ and they quickly find out it’s a lot tougher than they thought. A lot of them come out like that and don’t make it all the way through the year. There’s a learning curve and you’re a little behind the eight ball if you haven’t played three or four years at the high school level.”

Wallace attributed the high school team’s performance to this lack of experience and preparation.

“Honestly, [the learning curve is] part of the reason we’ve struggled the past few years, because we can’t get a consistent group of guys to come out every year and when they do come to us we have to teach them the game from the most elemental aspects of the game,” he said.

The lack of a middle school football program will likely worsen the situation.

“If we don’t get a middle school team coming out of Chamblee Middle next year, then that’s really gonna hurt the program. We’re now in the process of bringing [our] younger players up and helping them fine tune their game, but after they leave, there’s no one behind them and as a coach, that concerns me,” said Wallace. “That’s gonna end up hurting us one of these days.”

Chamblee Middle School coaches and administration could not be reached for comment.