DUNEDIN – John Miller has been coaching youth football for so long that some of his pupils are now doing the same.
“Which is a really good feeling,” said Miller, president of the Dunedin Junior Falcons.
He has been a coach since 1996, beginning with the Clearwater Junior Tornadoes. Because of his law enforcement duties, he had to step down for awhile.
Six years ago, when his son, Jacob, was 7 years old, Miller started coaching again. Since then, he has assumed many responsibilities for the Falcons organization on and off the field.
And he loves it.
“I just feel these types of programs are very important. I have been involved with law enforcement now for 28 years. And I see how these types of organizations help youth. They create not only strong bodies but respect for the game,” he said.
That, in turn, put youths on a path to help their communities, he said.
Registration is underway for The Dunedin Junior Falcons upcoming season, which begins with a jamboree Aug. 17.
At one time, the Falcons registered 900 youths for their various teams, which are classified by weight and age criteria. Now about 200 kids are involved in football and cheerleading, coming from Dunedin, north Clearwater and Palm Harbor.
“Over the years we have kind of lost kids and families through attrition or for whatever reason,” Miller said.
Participation in the Falcons may have peaked when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had their Super Bowl-winning season in 20l0.
I think it (registration) depends on the social network … There are some issues in our organization which I think we are healing,” he said.
A lot of kids play baseball year-round but Miller believes there are a lot of kids who want to play football or be cheerleaders, His daughter, Joy, 10 is a cheerleader.
Partnerships are important for the organization. Falcon coaches recently were invited to a coaching clinic at Dunedin High School.
“I think if you see the youth football is prosperous, it will feed the high school program,” Miller said.
The city has “been absolutely wonderful toward the organization,” Miller said, adding that the Falcons use the city community center for board meetings.
“They assist in guidance. Laurie Ferguson has been the liaison for all youth sports and has done a great job in giving assistance,” Miller said.
Miller, a former tailback and flanker for Northeast High School wanted to play for the St. Pete Seahawks, “but that didn’t happen.” Instead, after serving in the military, he went to work for the Dunedin Police Department at the age of 20. Now a sergeant with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, he believes his law enforcement experience has helped him on the gridiron.
“What I would like to do this time is to evaluate the coaches on how they do. One of my fortes is I’m an instructor through law enforcement for many years now, in different facets. I know a little about teaching. I’d like to sit back and watch and critique and lots of times the coaches are open to that kind of stuff,” Miller said.
He still coaches, when necessary.
“I jump in when necessary. My role as a president is to provide a good, safe and healthy environment so the kids can come, learn the sport of football, what goes with that and have fun,” Miller said.
Falcons’ practice begins in July at Dunedin High School. Teams include the flyweights, 7-8 years old; mighty mites, 9-10 years old; peewees, 11-12 years old; and midgets, 13-14 years old. Visit www.newdunedin
jrfalcons.com for more information about the schedule and practice.
Miller is trying to get the word out that the Falcons need players – the more, the merrier.
“To see the kids grow as they come up through different ages and weight limits,” Miller said, “and then go off and play high school ball, it’s just very satisfying.”