There’s an admission gate, refreshments, stands with enthusiastic fans on both sides of the field, cheerleaders, a PA announcer, an operating scoreboard, professional referees, players padded into uniforms, coaches on the sidelines yelling encouragement or instructions, running, passing, blocking, tackling, touchdowns, extra points and a halftime show. It’s easy to see why playing youth football, such as this Pop Warner league, would be a kick, but especially for kids interested in one day playing high school ball.
“Honestly, I don’t think the average kid if he steps on to play freshman football without Pop Warner, he’s going to be at a terrible disadvantage,” said BOYFL President Sean Ooghe. “The junior midgets and midgets, we have kids with eight, nine, 10 years of experience. Now when they go to play freshman ball they have got eight years of experience and are well prepared to go in. Nowadays I think it’s extremely difficult for the average kid to start playing high school football never playing Pop Warner.”
But there’s much more that playing football – and for the girls, learning to cheerlead – offers these youngsters, according to Ooghe, who has been coaching for 17 years. “What they get is the teamwork, camaraderie, being a part of a team,” he said. “I’m biased, but I think football is the greatest sport. The values it teaches. It teaches accountability. Because on any play it takes 11 players to execute a play. You can’t have just one great person and everybody else is unaccountable. Everybody is accountable. It really builds fortitude in the kids and just accountability and teamwork.”
Saturday’s event was the BOYFL Falcons’ annual Jamboree – a full day of football, seven games beginning at 8 a.m. with players as young as 5 on the tiny mite team and ending with the midgets, who can be as old as 15. The Falcons took on the Berkeley Junior Bears, who have played in the Pop Warner national championship tournament.
While the on-the-field action gets the attention, Ooghe said that the Pop Warner ethos does not limit it to that. “The crux of Pop Warner is scholastics as well as the athletic,” he said. “All of our boys that play, all of our cheerleaders that cheer, they have to show us report cards that have at least a 2.0 (grade point average). Obviously, 2.0 is average. But again, scholastics is head and head with the sports and what we are trying to do out here.”
BOYFL has been in existence for nearly 10 years, said Ooghe, who has headed it the last two and also coaches the junior midget team on which his son plays. The league has one season per year, starting with practice in early August, the Jamboree in late August and an eight-week season starting in September.
This year BOYFL plays five games on its home field at Freedom, but the season will launch on the road in Monterey. “Most of the families will travel down the night before, and we’ll stay in hotels and have group dinners and stuff like that,” said Ooghe. “So its actually been a pretty good thing. It builds great friendships.”
It’s too late to sign up for this season, but with a record 350 kids signed up this year and two teams in the youngest age group, it’s apparent that BOYFL will be around next year and for many years to come. “We’re here for the community,” said Ooghe. “The whole reason our association exists is for the kids and the players. We’re building an association that’s going to be very welcoming to the entire community. We want to be an important part of the community in the development of young men and women.”
For more information, go online to www.boyfl-falcons.com.