The Future of Catoctin Cougars Sports

with Michael Betteridge

I started coaching football in Fairfield at the youth JV level. The kids I coached were in second and third grades. Today, that same group of kids are juniors and seniors in high school, and many of them are playing high school varsity football! I coached JV for two years, then mid-varsity, and finally varsity, with the same group of kids. I followed them through their development as young athletes and watched them grow from little boys into young men. It is an honor to be a part of their lives.

It was a lot of hard work with many hours of practice, from early afternoons until dark weekdays. From the scorching heat of August to the frozen turf of November, we practiced hard. On weekends, we traveled to games all over southern Pennsylvania. 

Coaching at the youth level required many skills: scheduling, logistics, medical, equipment, fundraisers, counseling, motivational training, and, most importantly, where the parents were involved, politics. And that was before we even took the field to play football. Youth coaches and administrators work long, hard hours. They attend year-round classes on safety, techniques, and organization. They must be certified, background-checked, and are held to the highest standards of community behavior.

Today’s youth sports programs are the reason that high school athletics excel. When I was young, all our small community had to offer in football was the Catholic League. Many of my friends were Catholic. I was jealous that they got to play organized football in elementary and junior high school, while all I could do was get in a pickup game out in the cow pasture. I tried to convince my Methodist mother to convert the family to Catholicism so that I could play football in junior high. “It wasn’t a good enough reason,” she told me, with a smile. We had little league baseball, but there were no other organized youth sports for kids my age.

Our children today are truly blessed. We’ve come a long way since my youth. We have youth sports in football, basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, field hockey, and volleyball. Catoctin youth sports are directly responsible for the talent we see today at the high school level in all sports categories. With years of experience playing together, by high school, our young athletes know exactly what to expect from their teammates. More importantly, our kids start playing together at an early age and form bonds that last a lifetime. Year after year, graduating Catoctin senior athletes step up to the microphone on Senior Day and talk about how much they will miss their teammates and how long they have been playing sports together at the ripe old age of 17.

Recently, I had the opportunity to broadcast the 10-12-year-old Thurmont youth baseball team on the radio. They are a very well-coached group of talented young athletes. As I sat in the press box before the game and watched the warmups, I realized that I was looking at the Catoctin High School baseball future out there on the field. I Googled the 2017 All-Star Little League team and laughed out loud. On that roster were Connor Crum, Joey McMannis, and Peyton Castellow, all Catoctin Cougars baseball graduating senior stars in 2023. During my broadcasts, The Thurmont Bucks 2023 Little League baseball team battled opponents from all over Central Maryland and put up some impressive victories, scoring 48 runs in three tournament games. That’s sixteen runs per game! Four or five years from now, Bradley Goddard, Eli Yocum, Parker Hahn, Ethan Tokar, and their Bucks teammates will probably be tearing up the 1A in baseball with Coach Mike Franklin at Catoctin, putting up similar numbers.

When you look around the region and you see sports powerhouse schools like Linganore, Oakdale, and Urbana, you wonder why, year after year, season after season, they continue to win. You need to look no further than LOUYAA (Linganore Oakdale Urbana Youth Athletic Association), the largest youth athletic association in Central Maryland. Successful high school sports programs look to these feeder organizations and work closely with the youth coaches and administrators to align their strategies and implement playbooks and cultures that are consistent.

Catoctin Cougars football coach Mike Rich, who is a product of the LOUYAA system, is building the same relationship with the CYA (Catoctin Youth Association) and Catoctin Youth Football. Coach Rich runs clinics in the offseason with the CYA and maintains a strong relationship with all the coaches and administration. The depth of this relationship is not just off the field, but on the field as well. Coach Rich explained to me that offensive strategies are largely based on the players and their unique skills. At the youth level, they work on teaching the same offensive fundamentals, but the focus is on building defenses that use high school terminology and play calling. Youth football players are completely familiar with what coaches want to do when they arrive at the high school level, as a result. The part of the relationship that Coach Rich enjoys most is the times when he and the youth coaches can just sit down, relax, learn from each other, and “talk football.” They take the time to meet regularly.

Our Catoctin youth programs from Little League to CYA are the secret to the Catoctin Cougars high school sports success. The level of community involvement in youth sports in Northern Frederick County is something that makes us proud to be Cougars. Drive by Leisner baseball field on any given day and try to find a parking space. Or try to find a seat in the stands or on the grass hills at a Catoctin football game, and you’ll understand why we’re the “baddest cats” on the mountain. 

Our youth programs are producing some awesome young athletes, coaches, and fans!

Check out the Catoctin Youth Association Facebook page, Catoctin Youth football, and the Thurmont Little League websites today, and come on down to catch a game real soon!

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