Local Sports Notebook: Welch looks to put ‘backyard fun’ into football

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Welch is a native of Elgin who played in high school at Elgin-Millville and in college at Winona State. He was a long-time college coach at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul before getting into consulting.

But due to COVID-19, nary a college nor high school team is playing in Minnesota this fall. Welch, who also runs football camps, wants to keep players active, but he also wants the game to continue to grow. With that in mind he is taking a new approach to the old game of backyard football.

“I want to find ways to re-grow and encourage young players to stay with the sport,” he said. “Then it hit me and I said to myself ‘How did we play football growing up in 1984 when there was no organization?’ We played 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 football in the backyard.”

Welch remembers those days of “backyard fun” when the two or three players were all over the field and either had the ball in their hands or were defending the ball on every play.

Welch plans to test his 3-on-3 backyard football with a tournament in Rochester that will be held over two weekends, on Sept. 19 and Sept. 26. The tournament is called Route Tree 3-on-3 and the link to sign up is: http://www.routetree3on3.com/

“I understand covid is going on, but I’ve already talked to everyone I need to,” Welch said. “I’m going to be well within the state guidelines.”

Welch is taking the sheer volume of numbers out of the equation. Each 3-on-3 team will be allowed a maximum of five players and the collision aspect is also being eliminated as the games are “touch.”

“We have a product that’s safer than what’s going on in soccer right now in the state of Minnesota,” Welch said.

He plans on running divisions for players in grades 5-6, 7-8, 9-10 and 11-12. To limit the number of people each player comes in contact with, each team will be grouped in pods of four. Then each team will play the other three teams in their pod, which should limit each player’s contact to about 12-16 other people.

“We’ll stay well within the safety zone of that 25-person pod per field,” Welch said.

The fields will be about 35 yards long and 20 yards wide — just a bit bigger than a basketball court — and will be held at John Withers Sports Complex — 2021 Mayowood Road SW — in Rochester

“It is fast break football,” Welch said. “It’s like being in a gym, it’s like being on a basketball court. I want to watch this product and go ‘That’s looks exactly what we did growing up in the back yard.'”

The cost is $300 per team, which is for two weekends of play. Welch said each team will play four games each of the two weekends, and 100 minutes per weekend. No coaches will be allowed, but games will have officials.

“This allows the kids to coach themselves,” Welch said. “You don’t need a coach and quite frankly they can’t be there right now.”

Welch, who recently moved to White Bear Lake, hopes to run the same type of league down in the southeastern corner of the state and in the Twin Cities. If the event catches on, he hopes to run a league in the future.

“A lot of high school coaches are excited about it,” Welch said. “But obviously they’ve got to be respectful of their roles and make sure they’re staying within the State High School League guidelines, which they should be doing.”

At the tournament, players will have their temperature taken prior to taking the field. And if players aren’t on the field, they will be expected to stay in a reserved spot.

“The expectation is if they’re not playing, they’re social distancing and wearing a mask,” Welch said.

“I think the kids are just going to love it once we hone in on just what exactly the rules are after doing a couple of (test runs),” he added.

Guy N. Limbeck is a sports writer for the Post Bulletin. His Local Notebook appears each Tuesday. He can be reached at glimbeck@postbulletin.com.

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