After a year off, Travis Walch is returning to his hometown to put on a 7-on-7 football competition.
Walch is the founder of Route Tree and he does a lot of consulting for area high school football teams. He is an Elgin-Millville grad who currently resides in White Bear Lake.
He will sponsor a 7-on-7 competition for varsity teams at noon on Saturday, July 17. The event is being held at the Plainview-Elgin-Millville 4-6 Building in Elgin.
Among the eight teams currently signed up are Caledonia, Mayo, Century and Stewartville. The same camp was held two years ago and was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19.
“Last time we had 13 teams and I would like to get up to 16,” Walch said. “I think the coaches and the teachers are just tired. I think the last thing they want to do is take a weekend to go somewhere. So it’s been a real challenge.”
Each team is guaranteed five games, in which certified officials monitor play. Information on the event can be found at www.routetree3on3.com.
Walch, whose older brother Carson coaches in the NFL, has also started a 3-on-3 football competition for younger players. That is available for players in grades 3-12 and he believes that version could really take off in the near future.
“Your 7-on-7 is really bulky,” he said. “You might need 15 guys because you might have an offense and defense. But for 3-on-3, if their varsity can’t come for some reason … they can just grab two buddies and roll over here and play 3-on-3. And it’s 3-on-3 touch football.”
Walch did a study and figured that players would get 10 times more touches in 3-on-3 competitions than in 7-on-7.
“And it’s not just because there’s more guys,” he said. “Because we take the huddle and coaches out of it. It plays more like 3-on-3 basketball. These kids are getting two to two and a half plays per minute.”
Walch said the extra plays mean more meaningful experience for players, which makes the cost of events also a better value.
“It’s not just the receivers getting extra reps,” Walch said, “it’s also the defensive backs because they’re getting balls thrown at them on an every other rep basis.”
Walch did a study involving costs of traveling, lodging and tournament fees. He came up with a cost of $5 per player touch of the ball for 7-on-7 competitions and a cost of 33 to 50 cents per touch in 3-on-3 events.
A 3-on-3 event will also be held in Elgin on July 17. That competition is running from 8:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. The 7-on-7 event follows at noon.
“We absolutely encourage girls teams to sign up,” Walch said. “We already have two girls teams signed up. And co-eds teams, too. It’s really a cool game once people watch it.”
Walch’s main goal is to increase the number of football players in Minnesota and retain those numbers through high school.
“I’m making a curriculum right now which in essence the goal is to make football more fun in training from ages 6-13 when we don’t need to win football games,” Walch said. “Our focus should be how many reps, with the ball, we can get with these kids.”
Walch has watched training videos in other sports such as soccer, basketball and hockey to glean new ideas.
“They’re just doing these never ending drills because their games are continuous,” he said.
“We’re trying to find new and creative ways to make football more fun for young kids so we can get them to ninth grade and they don’t quit before then,” Walch added. “Especially your lineman and people who don’t get to throw and catch the ball.”
Guy N. Limbeck is a sports writer for the Post Bulletin. His Local Notebook appears each Tuesday. He can be reached at email@example.com.