Palmerton Flag Football Coach Todd Frank has a "golden" little secret.
In July, during the annual Palmerton Booster Club Football Camp, Frank let me in on his idea of how to keep his players, who range from 4 to 6 years old, interested in the game of football. That idea was the golden football, a small gold football which players earned through various activities and achievements.
At first, I was unsure how a small football would achieve Frank's goals; but after practices officially started, I quickly learned that the idea was the "golden" ticket for the team.
The players responded quickly to his creative way of coaching.
I really found out more about the effects it had on the players when my 6-year-old son received his first golden football of the season on the fourth day of practice.
I remember Wyatt running over to me with the biggest smile on his face and yelling, "Dad, catch!"
Once I caught the ball, I realized that the idea was a good one.
That night, my son didn't let that ball leave his side until he fell asleep. He tossed it around a bit at home. He sat watching TV with it in his arms. And, once he finally fell asleep, I made sure I put it on the table next to the bed so he knew where it was when he woke up the next morning.
Now five "golden footballs" later and I decided to share Frank's "golden" little secret with you.
After talking to the Bombers' flag football coach prior to one of Wyatt's recent practices, Frank admitted that he first saw the idea on the Internet.
That idea dealt with the game of baseball, but Frank decided to carry it over to the game of football.
"It was a tactic to try and get kids to practice harder," Frank said. "When they practice harder, they became better baseball players. So, I took the content and put it over into the golden football. The kids love it."
After incorporating it into his practices six years ago, Frank explained that he saw what the idea could do. It motivated the players and built a stronger interest in the sport.
"They work harder at practice to try and get ahold of that golden football," Frank said. "It's just hard work and dedication by the kids. They simply want to practice harder because of it.
"What's practice for? he added, "To make the kids better football players. I think that's a big success thanks to the Palmerton Booster Club."
When each of the parents see how their child reacts when their son, or even daughter there are two girls, Elizabeth and Kylie, on Wyatt's team receives one of the seven golden footballs, it hits home and helps motivate the family.
"The golden football to a 4, 5 or 6-year old is a prize and they love it," Frank said. "But, to us coaches, it's even more special. To see these kids' faces, especially when we call out their names standing out there in the middle of practice, saying things like 'the first golden football is going tonight to a first-year player,' 'to a kid that practiced hard tonight,' 'played his butt off in the game,' once they get that golden football, just to see the sparkle in their eyes, it's amazing."
Just like I stated the way Wyatt reacted when he got his first one, he was just as excited when he got number two, and three and four and then the last one earlier last week.
But how do they choose which players receive the golden footballs?
Frank also let me in on that secret, which is based on equal opportunity.
The Team Mom keeps track of who gets the football. That way it isn't going to the same player more times than another player.
"There are kids that could get it every night, especially some of the kids, who have been here for two to three years," Frank said. "But, there are also the younger kids the 4, 5 or maybe even 6-year-olds who are on the first-year team. They might not have practiced as hard as they could, but when they get that golden football the next night you can see the big improvement in practice because they want to get it again.
"The same person could get the golden football every night of the week, but I try to spread it out between the kids. There are obviously starters on the team, but there are also first-year kids that don't know as much yet and are learning and by the end of this year they'll be outstanding football players."
While I got to see that the "golden football" is a perfect form of positive reinforcement to these young football players, Frank was also all smiles when he reminisced over the years since he incorporated this into his game plan.
"I remember a few years ago when my son's first year was Palmerton flag football I believe the program hadn't won a football game in four years," Frank said. "My first year of coaching we lost every game accept the last game of the season. We went 1-10. I started the golden football the following year we went 10-1. The following year, we won the championship. We went back-to-back championships.
"The Palmerton Booster Club … there so many great coaches here now that I think we're going to continue the success over the years and keep the winning attitude around here going."
It was almost like the "golden football" was the foundation for good things to come when it was initiated.