Knott-ing the community togetherWritten by Mike Bauman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
When the Toledo Wistert Chapter of the National Football Foundation held its 49th annual awards ceremony last month, most of the attention was centered on Ohio State Head Coach Jim Tressel, who served as the keynote speaker. While the attention toward Tressel was well-deserved given what he has meant to football in the state of Ohio, one local man honored that night didn’t get the opportunity to receive the attention he deserved for all he has meant to football here in Northwest Ohio.
That man is Toledo native Jamie Knott, who together with wife Janina started the Springfield Youth Football Association in 2008 and was honored last month by the Toledo Wistert Chapter with the Junior League Coach’s Award for his contributions to local football. Starting with 90 participants in its first season, the SYFA has grown to more than 250 participants in flag football, tackle football and cheerleading.
“It’s a great thing to be honored because you’re just doing something that you really enjoy doing,” Knott said in a phone interview with Toledo Free Press. “You’re not out there doing it for any type of award. It’s been very good, almost like a family atmosphere that it’s been able to build. We’ve got three third and fourth-grade teams per tackle, three fifth and sixth and because of lack of space we’re trying to still find ways to bring the kids together more.
“As far as things that people have done, the positive feedback is probably the biggest thing that really keeps you motivated, to know that you’ve done a lot of good things.”
Prior to coaching football, Knott was a player. He graduated from Whitmer in 1987, where he was an offensive lineman and played for OHSFCA Hall of Famer Pat Gucciardo, Sr. Knott received a degree in business from the University of Toledo in 1994 and now works for Toyota at the company’s Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Mich. He coached for 13 years in the Washington Junior Football League before starting the SYFA with his wife in 2008.
“I played the sport all the way through high school, and a lot of the lessons I learned in it are what I use on a daily basis and always have ever since I’ve been playing the sport,” Knott said. “We wanted the kids to get those same experiences and get them ready. If they’re going to move on to play football, that’s what the grade and behavior checks [are for], so that they understand that their school has to come first. But we want the kids to get more out of it than football.
“We want them to get the life lessons out of it and apply them towards what they’re doing.”
During the season, kids participating in the program receive weekly grade and behavior checks from their teachers and parents, a practice instituted by SYFA coach Mark Masella. Masella also started an offseason conditioning program that takes place once a week for kids not participating in other sports. While Knott and others involved in the SYFA enjoy playing games at Springfield High School, they are also trying to raise money to purchase more land to develop practice fields, possibly taking it a step further in building local community center has been discussed.
“I can’t name them all, but there’s a lot of people involved in this organization to make it run,” Knott said. “We’ve grown from zero to almost 300 kids very fast, so it takes a lot of people. I don’t want this to sound by any means that it’s just two people —me and my wife — doing this. There’s a lot of people involved.”
Unfortunately, due to health issues Knott — a self-proclaimed “huge Ohio State fan and a huge Jim Tressel supporter” — was unable to attend the Toledo Wistert Chapter’s awards ceremony because he was in the hospital. Even though his health issues will prevent him from coaching in the time being, Knott won’t let them get in the way of his involvement with the SYFA, nor with 13-year-old son Zachary and nine-year-old son Cameron.
“I’ve coached Zach for several years and Cameron for two, but with me stepping down right now I’ll still be somewhat involved trying to transition everything and help them out,” Knott said. “I’m not just going to walk away and dump it in their laps, but I’ll finally be able to watch one of my kids play.”