Katy Youth Football Sets the Standard for Sports Programs

COVER STORY | By M.G. Angulo  | Photos by Joey Belleza –

Austin Backie, Joshua Dibrell, Sebastian Duffy and Bo Cortez.

Football is more than a sport in Katy. Its roots dig deeper than the thrill of a Friday night game showered in stadium lights. It is more than a roaring crowd, the pounding of feet hitting the grass or the grunts of the players as they demonstrate their skills.

For many Katy families, football is the thread that connects them all, strangers and friends alike. Anthony Biello, a married father of three children, knows well the importance of football in the community he calls home.  As the president and chief executive officer of Katy Youth Football, he has had a front row seat to the impact the sport has on the folks who also build their lives in this city.

As a member of the executive committee for more than a decade, Biello knows joining Katy Youth Football (KYF), a nonprofit league that prepares young athletes for junior high and high school football, means more than an opportunity to play one of America’s favorite pastimes.  At its heart, KYF is a brilliant combination of safe preparation, leadership, community and a pure love of the game.

“One Team, One Goal”

Eric Christianson, Jesse Jensen, Henry and Joshua Dibrell and Garrett Mack.

As KYF enters into its 39th year in operation, Biello, who is serving his sixth year as president, reflected on how the nonprofit remains relevant and continues to flourish. “Above all, this is a community organization.  When you have people — executive board members, general board members, parents, coaches and volunteers — who love the game and who dedicate themselves to a goal, this type of organization is what you get.

“Every role in this organization is important,” he continued. “Our coaches are parents, whose kids participated in the league, and many continue to coach even though their child has long since aged out. We have volunteers who love football, and those who knew nothing about football but have the passion we have. We like to say Katy Youth Football has ‘one team, one goal,’ and that passion is what drives us.”

KYF is a 100 percent volunteer-run organization, with no one receiving monetary compensation for their work. But those involved with KYF do receive something: proof that if an organization has the right motive, it elevates a community.

“We’re not trying to create the next NFL star,” said Biello, who has been involved with the league since 2004 when his now-adult son first began playing. “The league is about making sure these kids are learning the fundamentals of football and having fun while they do it. It makes sure everyone’s heart is in the right place. It’s a way of showing a love for a sport that allows the community to give back in a positive way.”

Former KYF coach Henry Dibrell, who also began volunteering with the league when his son played, said the league is a cornerstone of the community. At games, not only families arrive as spectators, neighbors, friends and co-workers do as well.

“I wouldn’t call games football games, but rather community gatherings,” Dibrell said.  “And the more people see each other, the more they build a relationship outside of the league and into the community. That’s what cool about the league.”

Safety First

Assistant Coach Kenneth Fern, Koby Madriz, Zachary McGuinn, Nicholas David-West, Bo Cortez, Harrison Sager, Kenneth “KJ” Patterson, Gabriel Simmons, Jake Wigginton, Kenny Fern, Head Coach Robert Cortez, Jeremy Foster, Alan Dominguez, Clayton “CJ” Cantrell, Shepherd Bowling and Dalton Johnson.

Katy Youth Football is one of the largest youth football leagues in Texas for children four through 13 years-old, boasting around 350 coaches and 1,600 players on 70 teams. The league offers a progressive developmental program.

Game parameters — whether there is restricted contact, modified play or flags, for instance — are set by the age group and adhere to the league’s strict safety guidelines.

In 2013 the league became an early adopter of USA Football’s “Heads Up Football,” a full-featured player safety program designed for leagues and schools.

“We have a safe program that stays up-to-date with Heads Up Football, and we also conduct a lot of training for our coaches,” Biello said. “We require our coaches to be certified by USA Football, and when we bring them in, we sit them down on a one-on-one basis to make sure they teach the game according to our standards.”

“There is so much we do to protect the kids,” added Robert Cortez, KYF coach and the league’s vice president of finance. “There is training, concussion protocols, a health and safety committee and background checks. Our kids’ safety is important to us.”

League Fundamentals

While not included in Katy ISD, Katy Youth Football “aligns itself with the district as best it can,” Biello said. “Our goal is to make sure we’re doing everything we can to prepare kids for junior high and high school football.”

“We have a strong connection with Katy ISD,” added Cortez, who has been on the league’s board for 10 years. “Not only do we use their fields and high school facilities, we put teams together in a way so they can track together.”

Operating off a special matrix that breaks down the school tracks in KISD, teams are formed by grouping elementary schools to ensure players stay together in the following school years. “If the kids train and play with teammates who go to the same school, by the time they’re in high school, they already know each other, how to play with each other and what they skills they have,” Cortez said.

That bond, however, is not limited to playing football. While football may be considered the “king” sport, specifically in Katy, Biello stressed that the league encourages their players to participate in other sports.  “I, as well as the league, am against specializing sports,” he said. “We encourage our players to participate in a variety of sports because it’s a good thing to play all sports.”

Why Sports Matter

“Sports are key to instilling a variety of values,” said Biello. “They teach leadership, resilience, accountability, responsibility and so much more.”

Dibrell added that being involved with sports also keeps students focused on their academics — because of “no pass, no play” —  and provides them with sound mentors.  “A lot of these coaches become mentors in these young people’s lives,” he said. “These coaches, who are successful individuals themselves, have a positive influence on these kids. Even today I see some of the young men who have aged out of the league, and they still call me ‘Coach.’

“I’m a political consultant,” Dibrell added with a laugh. “But it feels incredible to have the kids call me that.”

Sports also “opens up” kids, said Cortez, who, like Biello and Dibrell, started working with the KYF when his son played. “I’ve had kids on my team who were quiet and unsure about playing,” he said. “I remember this one kid who was like that and now he’s the starting lineman on his school’s high school team, and that makes me feel great. In fact, I go to a lot of games to see my former players.  Sports just has a way of opening kids up, building character and creating leaders.”

The Benefits of 7on7

For five weeks beginning in April, Katy Youth Football also offers the 7on7 team for players in second grade through eighth grade.  “We started this years ago to keep players involved and in shape during the off season,” Biello said. “We want to prepare them, plus it keeps all the fun going in the spring.”

The games are one-hand touch and are considered a passing game.  “The players are really having to work on their speed and agility,” said Dribell, who now coaches high school players in other leagues.

So, when competing athletes who may have somewhat relaxed in the off-season come up against Katy players, they are in a run for their money. The 7on7 teams also compete in a championship tournament game that draws elite teams from around Texas and is “a big deal,” Cortez said. “Last year we had over 5,000 people there. That says something.”

For more information about KYF and the upcoming 7on7 season, visit www.katyyouthfootball.com.


Katy Youth Football
P.O. Box 5543, Katy, TX 77491
Email: info@katyyouthfootball.com
Website: www.katyyouthfootball.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/KatyYouthFootball
(@ KatyYouthFootball)

Football Divisions

  • Senior Varsity: 6th Grade – (Cannot turn 13 years old before Septemer 1st, 2018)
  • Varsity: 5th Grade – (Cannot turn 12 years old before September 1st, 2018)
  • Junior Varsity: 4th Grade – (Cannot turn 11 years old before September 1st, 2018)
  • Rookie: 3rd Grade – (Cannot turn 10 years old before Sept. 1st, 2018)
  • PeeWee: 2nd Grade – (Cannot turn 9 years old before Sept. 1st, 2018)
  • Mitey Mites: 1st Grade (1st Year Tackle) – (Cannot turn 8 years old before September 1st, 2018)
  • Junior Flag: Pre-School and Kindergarten – (Must be 4 by September 1st, 2018 and cannot turn 7 years old before September 1st, 2018)

7on7 Registration Open

Registration is open for 2018 Spring 7on7. Visit katyyouthfootball.com and click on “Registration,” then “2018 KYF® Spring 7on7 Registration.”  An online account must be created to complete online registration.

Questions: 7on7@katyyouthfootball.com.