Skyhawk football reaches out to local children
Published: Thursday, September 27, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 27, 2012 20:09
Local parents, including Sidelines Brian Smith and Skyhawks head football coach Jason Simpson, wanted to see a little league flag football team here in Martin. This is a project years in the making that finally found a home at the UTM athletics department.
Kicking off this endeavor, Smith, Doug Anderson, TJ Damron, Adam and Stacey Adkins, Sports Information Director Joe Lofaro and many others worked tirelessly in cooperation with fellow parent, Simpson, to bring about a junior football league. Simpson, who advocates for no contact football until after 4th or 5th grade, strove to make this possible for the Skyhawk team as well.
According to Simpson, the junior football league is a positive thing for everyone involved.
“It is a means for university players to get involved in community outreach, a win-win situation. Players get to take part in and give back to the community. Boys and girls get to learn the game and have fun,” Simpson said.
While running around in the heat and sun, participating young players in the 1st through 5th grades are making head way in the art of camaraderie, as well as learning a new sport. This makes the skill and dedication of the UTM Skyhawks very obvious as they all patiently encourage their young charges and help them regain focus again and again.
Knowing the challenges of bringing around a single young, rambunctious child, let alone a sizeable group of them, one might wonder why the football team’s volunteers would take the time to volunteer with the program, with loaded class schedules and their own football practice following, among the many other responsibilities each team member holds.
One UTM player, Quarterback Derek Carr welcomes the opportunity.
“It’s a good opportunity to be a part of influencing someone’s life, being a good role model,” Carr said.
Carr also enjoyed the trip the UTM football team got to make to Martin Elementary School on Sept. 14.
“It’s fun, and like being a celebrity. The kids recognize you and say things like ‘Hey! He’s the one that signed my shirt!’” Carr said.
An enormous undertaking by many, the Junior Skyhawk Club is now official. It is currently having one practice per week and playing one game per week on Saturday mornings at 8:30. This fall will contain four weeks of play beginning Sept. 22 with the hopes of extending the program next year.
Also, Junior Skyhawk Club members receive membership cards admitting them to home games, as well as the privilege of accompanying the players as they run onto the field and access to the locker room to see players and coaches after the game.
Until now, UTM has only offered an annual free junior Skyhawks Club Clinic that lasted for about one hour each summer. “These things take time,” seems to have become the collaborative mantra, but time and perseverance have proven fruitful for the Junior Skyhawks, the parents and community alike as football kicks off in a whole new way in Graham Stadium. As the official sponsor, UTM is insuring and providing a reversible jersey for each child, footballs and flags, while only charging a modest fee; this will allow UTM to break even.
This program is not out to make money; this is a collaborative enterprise teaching the community’s current generation of football enthusiasts the experience and knowledge that will help them in school, in life and may even propel them into a football career of their own. Junior Skyhawks may one day join the ranks of the UTM Skyhawks and mentor the next generation of children.