Quarterback Ivy Hearne (4) hands off to Julian Gutierrez (1) during the Raptors, against the Big Steelers game. Gutierrez made a dash across the field for a touchdown on the play. Photo by Sean Roney.
KING CITY - The first season of the SoMoCo Youth Flag Football League has begun, and participants have already gotten to play in three jamborees.
The league started when kids, ages 7 through 12 began their practice on May 21. Then, the first jamboree started on June 2. Since then, there have been jamborees every weekend at the Chalone Peaks Middle School field. The season lasts through Aug. 11. There are currently 125 children in the league, and more can join at any time during the season.
"That's part of the reason I wanted to start the league, so no kids will be turned away," said Clay Stephens, president of the league. He said two joined this past weekend.
When asked why the league was formed, Stephens said, "It's a crucial time for the kids. They're a little more in the high-risk area. I wanted to get as many kids out there as possible rather than find trouble. If they're playing flag football, they're not doing anything they're not supposed to be doing."
With so many young boys and girls signed up and busy in the league, Stephens said he is in need of adult volunteers to help coach and referee the games.
"I need concerned community members. People who care about their community's future to come forward to help these kids," Stephens said. "I could definitely use more help."
Already, adult volunteers are helping to coach the teams, referee the games, maintain the fields and operate the concession stand. However, there are so few adults helping, that some volunteers are having to pull double duty. Stephens himself is not only league president, but also coaches multiple teams.
Though the volunteer side could see more numbers, Stephens said the children have already demonstrated their determination. He noted one team, who's coach left them after the season began. "The kids didn't quit, and they showed what kind of a team they are," said Stephens.
When asked what type of a commitment coaching is, Stephens said, "It's a minimum of three hours a week. Two practices and the game."
"This is my idea that I'm trying to get out there and get going, and a lot of people helped me to get this going. It wouldn't go that far without all this participation," Stephens said.
The beginning of the league comes after Stephens and others worked to get it started. "After we got the go ahead for the league, we submitted paperwork for a nonprofit organization, found what logo was going to be and made flyers," said Stephens. We handed out over 3,500 fliers, and went through elementary schools in King City, Lockwood and San Ardo."
One problem Stephens said he has seen plague other leagues is a lack of communication. "That makes it difficult to do things, so I've been wanting to avoid that," he said. "I've been to coach and referee meetings every week. It's about communication and keeping that channel open to receive information and give information."
The games take place weekly in King City, but Stephens said youth are welcome from throughout the county. "This is for South County's benefit," said Stephens. "I do have one coach from Greenfield who coaches a younger and older team as well."
Stephens went on to say, "What I want to see this whole flag football effort to do is reduce the crime. I did a report for school about kids between 10-14 of age getting in trouble. I went back to the 2007 crime rates." Stephens said that with information provided by the King City Police Department, records showed six kids out of 1,150 had gotten into trouble in '07, while the number dropped to two in 2008. Then, the number climbed back to six in '09, and 18 in '10, and finally 41 in 2011.
Stephens said the police were astonished by the information. "I would think the youth would be the thing they want to take care of," he said. "Using average population and rate of change with the youth, by 2016, 92 percent would have criminal records. Something needs to happen drastically."
Stephens summed it up to a lack of opportunity, with kids having to choose between bad choices. He said, "Say there's a kid who's 12 years old, and doesn't have a bicycle helmet. Does he steal a helmet and begin a criminal record, or stay inside and begin a lifetime of obesity?"
For the complete article see the 06-27-2012 issue.
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