Appleton group to provide football to student athletes if district doesn't

Appleton group to provide football to student athletes if district doesn't, Oct. 27, 2020. (WLUK/Chris Schattl)

APPLETON, Wis. (WLUK) -- Less than a week ago, FOX 11 reported on another way high school athletes may be able to play football, even if it’s not being offered at their schools -- football clubs.

Now, an Appleton group is planning to form just that.

“If football is not offered by the school districts, then we will offer an option,” said Appleton parent Erik Hansen.

“I mean, we don’t want to do this, but we can,” Nick Salm, president of the Appleton Youth Football Association said.

Salm and Hansen have already done it before.

“In the last five to six years, we’ve started at the middle school level...started or helped start five clubs, so it’s not unique to us,” said Salm.

The pandemic changed Appleton Area School District’s playbook, forcing them to punt fall football seasons into spring.

Hansen and Salm say they wanted to give the district the benefit of the doubt before starting their own club. But then...

"The kids had absolutely no trust,” Salm said. “They had no confidence that our district was actually going to give them football in spring."

Monday's school board meeting had no guarantee for winter or spring sports, so the wheels are in motion for a football club.

At this point, the plan would basically be to split Appleton in half, using College Avenue as the boundary, and have an Appleton north and an Appleton south team.

Non-school groups and sports clubs give athletes a chance to play outside of school. It's not common with football, but it's not impossible, and Appleton's club could still compete against WIAA high schools.

“It’s a great idea for them to do it,” Appleton East High School and Crusaders basketball coach Adam Maulick said. “I think to rob kids of an opportunity to play this year is not a great idea, to say the least.”

Hansen and Salm call it Plan B. But if they get off the ground, they think Plan B could become Plan A for a lot of students.

“You’re opening Pandora’s box in a way, because all these clubs already exist,” said Salm. “Football doesn’t."

The club would have to pay for everything from equipment to travel and, while he says it's not something they want to do...

“The second they confirm to us that they’re gonna guarantee football, we walk away,” said Salm.

They're willing to do whatever it takes for their kids to play.

“It’s our turn. We’ve taken enough away from them,” Hansen said. “It’s time to give them that opportunity, and to sacrifice for them a little bit."

FOX 11 reached out to the Appleton Area School District for comment but have not heard back from them.

A recent UW-Madison study looked into how the coronavirus impacts high school athletes.