Chicagoland's Jr. Wolves, North Shore Griffins rank among nation's best youth football sites
Apologies to Jordan and Sandberg and Toews and Kane, but Chicago is most definitely a football town.
Ditka. Payton. Da Bears. Monsters of the Midway.
All that passion for football, apparently, filters down to the youth level. The Chicagoland Youth Football League bills itself as “America’s Largest Independent Youth Football League.” While we’re not sure what that means, exactly, we can say that two of the best youth football sites on the Sport Ngin platform represent Chicagoland programs.
Thanks to the work of ace webmaster Mark Clark, the Jr. Wolves, based out of Crystal Lake, boast a site more fitting for a high school or college program. Clark has custom widgets and graphics sprinkled all over the site, making it one of the best in any category on the platform.
Also hailing from the north Chicago suburbs are the North Shore Griffins, who, judging by their homepage highlight video and cumulative record from past seasons, could aptly be nicknamed the Mini-Monsters of the Midway.
The football-crazed Miami area, Pacific Northwest and suburban Toronto also contributed sites to the Top 5.
We graded more than a dozen of the top youth football sites on the platform, assigning points in categories such as Design, Navigation, Content, Schedules and Results, History, Photos, Videos and more. We also assigned bonus points to sites that made the best use of the Sport Ngin platform, incorporating League, Registration and other products.
The sites that rose to the top were the ones that coupled a clean, concise homepage design (making for a striking first impression) with the greatest depth and variety of content.
Location: Crystal Lake, Ill.
Webmaster: Mark Clark
There’s no doubting what site you have landed on, as the design and branding screams WOLVES at every turn of the page. Webmaster Mark Clark uses all sorts of custom code elements on the site, and one of our favorites is the Wolves Weather Forecast on the home page. The weather widget is like a lava lamp in its mesmerizing qualities.
The top navigation is limited to a manageable eight links. And the navigation in the left rail is limited to seven options. Clark does a great job of sprinkling custom branded Wolves graphic links, or call-to-action buttons, throughout the site to help guide viewers to key pieces of content.
The Game Center page utilizes multiple widgets to list schedules and results for each of the Jr. Wolves’ eight teams.
Sitebuilder, Registration. Clark uses most every page element, widget and other tool available in not only building out the Jr. Wolves site but also in running the organization’s online registration.
The Alumni page lists prominent former players and cheerleaders. The Championship Teams pages uses the Tab Element to list Jr. Wolves’ championship teams from 2008 to 2015.
Prairie Ridge High School reached the Final Four of the Illinois Class 6A football playoffs in November, losing 35-27 in the semifinals to eventual state champion Montini.
The Fields page offers detailed maps to the Jr. Wolves’ practice facility, home field and a custom Google map showing all the TCYFL fields and programs.
Location: Miami-Dade County, Fla.
Webmaster: Rich Raphael
Video, video, video everywhere there’s video. We’re not just talking highlight videos, either. There’s the high-energy Twin Sports TV videos mixed with Better, Safer Game videos mixed with a We Believe in Football video. And that’s just on the home page.
The top navigation bar features a manageable eight links, all of which have labels that make it clear what content is inside those sections. The left home page navigation has links to pages devoted to each of the league’s parks.
The Schedule page shows the playoff brackets for each of the league’s eight playoff divisions. Regular season results and standings also are easy to find.
League, Sitebuilder, Registration. Few youth football sites can beat the Xtreme’s comprehensive use of the platform, giving the league a big edge in bonus points.
The History page does a nice job of summarizing the league’s origins and mapping out its future plans.
Professional trainer services have been available for all Xtreme League games since 2006 thanks in part to donations from the Miami Dolphins.
Did we mention this site is loaded with a massive amount of video? There are no less than 18 videos on the Videos page, including highlights from the league’s Super Bowl.
Location: Chicago's north shore area, Ill.
Webmaster: Chris Prawdzik
The Griffins, like the Jr. Wolves, are based in the Chicago suburbs and a member of The Chicagoland Youth Football League. Formerly known as the Glencoe Trevians, the Griffins practice and play their home games in two locations about 24 miles North of downtown Chicago in Glencoe.
There’s nothing better than watching highlight videos (dare we say mixtapes if its not basketball?) of pint-sized football players running for touchdowns. OK, there, is a way to make that video better. A portion of the background audio comes from Kurt Russell playing legendary U.S. Olympic coach Herb Brooks in the classic
hockey movie “Miracle.” Awesome!
The top navigation is limited to six categories, one of which is the catch-all More + category.
Schedules and scores for Griffins teams from four divisions are loaded on the site.
Sitebuilder (Mobile Responsive), Registration. We’re big, big fans of the new mobile responsive templates, including the Itasca theme used by North Shore
The About Us page includes text summarizing the club’s Vision, Mission, Strategic Plan and Objectives. The Club History page has yet to be loaded with content, but the In the Media page does have a Chicago Sun-Times video featuring club president Chris Prawdzik talking about the Griffins’ history.
North Shore teams have been racking up winning records for years, including in 2011 when they went a combined 67-22-4.
The Photo Gallery pages includes club historical images from 2003 through 2010.
Location: Ajax, Ontario
Webmaster: Marlon Inniss
The club, based just east of Toronto in the suburbs of Ajax and Pickering (it also has fields in nearby Whitby and Oshawa), is a reincarnation of the old Ajax Pickering Dolphins Club that was formed more than 40 years ago. The club has nine teams that play in the summer and fall and has plans for expansion.
The pro-quality homepage design might just be the best in this category. Simple, clean and unique with the curved lines and white and orange color scheme.
The nine categories in the top navigation might be one or two too many, especially with the three call-to-action buttons
available just below.
Rosters, schedules and scores are filled out for the 2015 season for the club’s summer and fall teams.
Sitebuilder. Lots of room for expansion here.
It’s great to see there’s a Mission Statement page (with photo!). The About Us landing page offers a brief synopsis of the club’s history.
The Dolphins get an early start on the new year, with the 2016 training camp and tryouts scheduled for January.
The Phin Store page details what equipment is provided, what needs to be purchased and what items the players keep at the conclusion of the season. There is also a list of equipment rules, several of which focus on the helmet (Do not sit on helmet; Do not throw helmet; Do not paint or put decals other than what is supplied on any part of your helmet).
FBU stands for Football University, which runs nationwide camps that routinely attract future NCAA Division I and NFL players. The organization’s mantra is, “Technique Plus Talent Beats Talent Alone.” FBU Team Seattle has sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade teams.
The homepage offers a nice mix of content, including a promo video for the FBU national championship in Naples, Florida, group photo of Team Seattle players, social media feeds and two more videos previewing the 2015 FBU National Championships.
The top navigation is a bit busy with 10 categories. We love to see the scoreboard scroll at the top of the page, making it easy to see how the Seattle teams are doing in the national tournament.
Each of the Team Seattle squads have full rosters (most players have positions, heights, weights and school information listed), schedules and updated scores. As an added bonus, there are custom profile pages built for several top players.
Sitebuilder, Registration, Non-Monetary Registration.
Text and videos scattered throughout the site effectively tell the FBU story. The Alumni page has a list of current NFL players, including Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota.
All-American Games is the parent company of both FBU and the U.S. Army All-American Bowl for top high school seniors.
The video page is loaded with dozens of highlight, training, national championship preview and promotional videos.
Here are more outstanding sites that were in the final judging mix but didn't crack the Top 5.
Wondering why your site didn't make the list? Want to put your site in the Top 5? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a free consultation.