Youth Football and Cheerleading League gets new lease on life

Published 12:01 am Thursday, November 24, 2022

When coaches Kevin Coffey and Martin Rogers were called before the old board of the Rowan-Salisbury Youth Football League a little more than a year ago, they expected to be asked to serve on the board.

Instead, they were informed that the board was retiring, en masse, and the hope was that the two of them would take on reinventing the league.

“The participation had been dropping off for a while,” said Coffey. “But this wasn’t what we expected.”

He and Rogers spent a lot of time talking that night about what they would need. New equipment was a top priority since much of the existing equipment had passed the useable stage. But the two men knew it was more than that. They needed to recreate the program with a new identity, a new publicity campaign, and new financial support.

They also knew they needed to do it fast.

So for eight weeks, they said they hit the pavement, looking for donations from businesses and individuals. And they got it.

“We raised about $50,000 in eight weeks,” said Coffey. “We ordered well over 100 helmets then, and eventually we got 250 new helmets for the season.”

At the end of last year, the league had 150 kids, Coffey said. This year, they had over 500 kids sign up, including 450 football players and 180 cheerleaders. In fact they had to turn some away because there was not enough equipment, something Coffey is determined will not happen next year.

“I want to be sure we have enough to accept any kid that wants to be a part of this,” he said.

At the end of last year, Coffey said he and Rogers were able to cobble together All Star games but this year, the league will have both a Super Bowl on Dec. 3 and an All Star event Dec. 10, both to be held at South Rowan High School. The Super Bowl games for both Junior Varsity and Varsity will be played under the stadium lights that evening, something Coffey wanted the kids to experience. All Star teams will be made up of players from different teams, (coaches choose their seven best to sent to the All Stars), giving kids a chance to play with new teammates. That event will begin with games of skill at 10 a.m., followed by the games which will kick-off about 12:30 p.m.

In addition, “cheerleading just goes with football,” said Coffey, so each team has a cheerleading squad.

The entire program is designed to be a feeder program for the local middle and high schools. Children from age 6-12, grades K-6, are eligible, and teams are decided by where the participants live. In addition, uniforms are designed to align with the local high school. So by the time the kids age out of the league at 12, they will go on to play with the same core group in middle and high school. Coffey did note there are a few girls who play football, and there are no restrictions on participation in that sense.

The league has both a website at rsyfl.com and a Facebook page, said Coffey, and in addition to accepting donations for the league overall, Coffey said this year there were 40 participants who were sponsored, whose families might not have had room in the budget for the program but who really wanted their child to have a chance to participate, and they are always grateful for sponsorship donations as well.

“We just want to reiterate, we are not a travel team, we are a local league,” said Coffey. “We are determined to be community-minded, to provide role models for these kids.” He and Rogers have coached against each other and with one another for years, he said. Coffey has been a coach of several sports, including baseball and wrestling. He grew up in Michigan, then at 12 moved to Mooresville. He married a Salisbury girl and they moved here to raise their family, he said. Rogers grew up in the Lumberton-Pembroke area, but graduated from West Rowan High School and considers himself a local. Both have children who have participated in the league in one or both sports.

“It’s been a great season so far,” said Coffey. “I don’t think we had any idea we could turn it around this much in one year, but it’s become clear the community is behind us, and we cannot say how grateful we are, for what it means for the kids.”

For those interested in attending the Super Bowl games, the PeeWee game will be at 3 p.m., the JV at 5 p.m. and the Varsity at 7 p.m.

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