If ever someone was ideally suited to run a kids football program, it's Dave Ferguson — the Freedom Area Recreation Council’s Volunteer of the Year.
That's because if it has anything to do with football, he’s done it.
He's president of the Sykesville Raiders football program and coaches two of its teams. He's the vice president of the Carroll County Football League and heads the league's important rules committee. In the rest of his spare time, if there is any, he helps out with rec council and other local fund raisers for various causes.
This month it might be for pediatric cancer or multiple sclerosis research, next month it’s breast cancer awareness, or maybe a program to buy uniform pants for kids whose families can’t afford them.
Oh, and Ferguson has also coached high school football since 2011.
The 45-year-old Freedom resident has lived and breathed the sport since he was a kid. He grew up playing football in West Virginia starting with recreation ball and continuing through high school. Then he played semi-pro football in the Navy and began coaching flag football teams.
When he left the Navy and moved to Carroll County, he wanted to volunteer for a rec football program because he felt like giving something back to the sport.
The Sykesville Raiders football program was right there to volunteer for. And it so happened they needed a coach for a 13-under team. So, he gladly took the job for the 2006 season.
But, his kids struggled and only won one game. However the experience was immensely rewarding for the new coach.
“That was one of the best years I've had,” Ferguson said. “The kid were great, and they worked hard. They got a lot better as the season went on.”
He coached other Raiders teams after that. In 2011, Ferguson branched out and began coaching at Liberty High.
“I coached the freshman team that year, and I have been coaching (high school) ever since,” he said.
He found that coaching at the high school level was different than running rec teams because the priorities were different.The pressures were greater because he had to do more than simply prepare the players to play high school football. He had to prepare them to be successful at the varsity if at all possible.
“In rec, the idea is to teach the fundamentals and have fun. In high school, they are more experienced, and you have to teach more advanced aspects of the game,” Ferguson said.
This meant that he could be teaching 14-year-old freshmen the intricacies of the zone defense in the afternoon, and 9-year-olds how to put on shoulder pads that very night. Yet he found he was always able to adjust his teaching style to fit the occasion.
In 2012, he became the Raiders’ football director with responsibility for the entire gamut of the group’s operation from ordering supplies to scheduling along with a host of other duties.
The following year, he moved on to Century High where he coached both the freshman and junior varsity football teams, and he remains there now.
Ferguson also handles weight training and other conditioning for the athletes.
“I help design conditioning programs for the kids in school,” he said. “I’ve had some good teachers over the years and I want to pass things on. In the off-season, I run conditioning sessions for the kids.”
Last year, he took over as president of the Raiders which put him in charge of the entire operation.
Ferguson has also gotten involved with the CCFL as a whole. He heads the rules committee, which is responsible for writing and revising the league’s operating procedures and advising the teams of rules changes. It also disciplines coaches when those cases arise.
Ferguson says they rarely do.
“We have 10 programs and 2,000 players, and you could count on one hand the number of infractions,” he said.
Ferguson acknowledges that, in this venue, he has become a good listener and able to see both sides of arguments before making a decision.
He is also the league’s vice president. And in working with a host of other CCFL programs and many different people, he has had to be a diplomat.
However, Freedom Recreation Council President Ken Whalen says that Ferguson has always had the flexibility to adapt himself to a wide variety of roles.
“Dave has many talents, and he seems able to adjust to a lot of different jobs,” Whalen said.
Whalen explained that Ferguson was chosen volunteer of the year because of his impressive accumulation of accomplishments and things he has done for the Raiders over time. Ferguson relates that he didn’t know he’d been selected until he saw his face on the program for the November event where the volunteers were honored.
“I was shocked, embarrassed and humbled at being picked. It was truly an honor to be selected,” Ferguson said.
“He has put his heart and soul into this and has been involved in every aspect of the program,” Whalen noted.
Ferguson says he has many reasons for doing that. Intangible reasons.
“I like to watch the kids having a good time. That makes it worth it,” he said.
“The biggest kick is watching the kids develop into what they will be. I also hope that I’ve influenced their lives in a positive way. I want to help make that young man into a better human being.”
Another thrill is having someone who played on one of his football teams years ago come up to him and say, “Hi, coach.”
In fact, some players from that first 13-under squad still do that.
With his impressive resume, Ferguson would be a prime candidate for other coaching jobs. But it looks as if he likes what he’s been doing.
“I see myself in rec ball for years to come,” he said. “I don’t want to give that up. And I like freshmen and junior varsity coaching and getting them ready for varsity. I might move on to the varsity staff in a couple of years if they need me.”
Whalen makes it clear that, in terms of volunteerism, Dave Ferguson is clearly a man for all seasons and a tremendous asset to the Freedom community