Marco Island Charter Middle School is officially having a football program.
The Charter School Board approved moving forward after athletic director Roger Raymond discussed the program at its meeting on Monday night.
Principal George Abounader did not back the startup immediately.
“When moving through unchartered waters, there is always some trepidation, but we had such a demonstration of interest from our students and parents for football that we felt it was worth a try,” he said.
However, he said being a student comes first.
“Our students who play sports understand that they are student athletes and their studies comes first,” he said. “A student-athlete can not become ineligible to study, due to being unsuccessful in football, but can become ineligible for football because of being unsuccessful in their studies.”
Raymond’s ball park figure for the school having its first football team is $10,000 to $12,000. The numbers include football equipment, such as blocking dummies, players’ equipment needs, like uniforms and helmets, traveling and referees.
“It won’t be all whistles and bells, we’ll be watching costs,” he said.
Each player, expected to be around 30 players, will pay a participation fee of $150, like other Charter sports programs.
“Usually participation fees cover at least 60 percent of the costs,” Raymond said. “The rest comes from donations and concession sales.”
There will be no admission charge for the games.
The head coach is Mike Vanderjagt, former NFL record field goal kicker. Tryouts this week were Tuesday and Thursday. The next practice is 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
“We are extremely happy with the level of talent and turnout,” Vanderjagt said. “This will be a good football team and we will win football games.”
His assistants are Chris Burt, offensive line, Scott Gibbs, defensive backs, Jim Young, offensive backs, and Lee Vanderjagt, strength and conditioning.
“My brother Lee Vanderjagt is a certified personal trainer and is one of the general managers at Retro Fitness in Naples,” Mike Vanderjagt said. “The YMCA is giving the team a few hours a week for weight training.”
Vanderjagt and his coaches will be traveling to Orlando on Monday to have a “chalk talk” session with Tony Dungey, former Indianapolis coach when Vanderjagt played for the Colts.
The team’s first game will be hosting Southwest Florida Christian on Sept. 1. Raymond feels sure of six games, but expects there will be eight. Other known opponents are Belen Jesuit, Evangelical Christian and La Belle.