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Commentary: Childish adults are ruining youth sports

Jae Fortune

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Let me explain.

On a picture-perfect day for football in Central Florida (possibly our last before an approaching hurricane’s arrival), one of the most anticipated football games of our football season was canceled. Frankly, in the vast majority of scenarios, a description like “highly anticipated” is highly subjective. So, let’s check the list:

So, what game are you talking about?

In Orlando, one of the most highly anticipated football games of the year was a youth football matchup. Two regional powerhouse programs, the West Orlando Jags and Orlando Outlaws, were scheduled to clash in a Sunday morning tournament at Dr. Philips High School’s Bill Spoone Stadium, adeptly branded as ‘the Soul Bowl’ of Central Florida.

Youth football in Central Florida has changed drastically, in the last few years. First, it was simply a way for parents to get their children out of the house on the weekends. Then, it morphed into a more niche, passion-centered enterprise with full-on rivalries and bragging rights to compete for. And now, it’s grown into a full-on developmental league for some of the area’s standout young talent.

Growing up in Pine Hills, I always wanted to play football like my older cousins. However, my cousins came from American households where youth football culture was better understood. My mom grew up in Jamaica, before moving to this country to attend Florida State University. Her understanding of how youth football works was limited, and continues to be. What she knows is how deeply it bothers her to see young children begging for money in busy traffic intersections, collecting spare change in their tiny football helmets, while an overweight “coach” looks on from the sidewalk. She swore that I’d never end up in that situation, and I share her distain for that gross image of youth athletics.

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Fortunately, that problematic scene has become far less common, in this era of flashy youth football organizations. Model organizations like the Pine Hills Trojans are managed by business-savvy entrepreneurs, and win champions with support from sponsors, instead of exploiting young athletes.

Football in Florida is more about business, than fun.

No matter how young the players are, football in Florida is big business. And, to be fair, that makes perfect sense. We saw the very same transition take place in the high school and college versions of the sport. Now players have legal representation, NIL deals and business managers before they have diplomas, graduation caps or gowns. This is America: A great product is meant to be marketed, and sold.

There’s nothing more fun than watching your team win a great game, but it’s deeper than that. A well-run program like KJ Ishmael’s Jags, the Pine Hills Trojans, or Richie Clermont’s Outlaws, empower the entire community they represent. Players are blessed with opportunity to gain quality experience, and hone their natural skills in a structured environment before their first high school game (trust me, it matters). An area like West Orlando, which is often unserved and starved of substantial economic opportunities for residents, benefits more than just quality entertainment, and family-friendly events. Small business owners like Chad Mascoe Sr., owner-operator of Smoke Sumthin’ BBQ, that would otherwise be ignored or overlooked, are presented as vendor in front of no less than a thousand hungry spectators, at events like the Soul Bowl.

Group economics is when a collective group pools their money together to benefit a common interest. Since the murder of Black Wall Street, this concept has proven elusive for us to reclaim, as a people. But when I go to these events, that’s the vision that I see.

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Why was the game canceled?

Bad weather? Nope.

Rattlesnakes on the field? No.

Immature, emotional, grown ass people decided to start fighting at a youth football game on a Sunday afternoon. And then, they got one of the most important events of this youth football season, canned before it could even really start. Before joining Sports Club Florida, I was working at my old high school when I met Mr. Charles Carr. A mentor and hope-dealer from Eatonville, who inspired me with his father-like relationship with the 50+ youths in his program at the Central Florida Boys & Girls Club. Even when I don’t agree with everything he says, I respect that he genuinely cares enough to speak.

Mr. Carr was one of many who made the trip to Dr. Phillips for the Soul Bowl festivities on Sunday (in his case, nearly an hour drive there, and back), decked out in his West Orlando Jags gear. According to his eye-witness account, the morning had gone perfectly fine, with everyone have a great time. That is, until some coaches got into it. Reportedly, this altercation sparked another, which lead to an escalation, and finally reports of a loud bang, that sent frightened attendees fleeing for safety brought the event to an unceremonious end.

Neither the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, nor the Orlando Police department have confirmed whether or not that loud noise was indeed shots being fired, at this time.

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However, the damage has been done, and now uncertainty and speculation abounds. Sunday’s unfortunate incident also comes after a series of incidents at youth football events across the county, ranging from shameful viral moments to high profile tragedies like the murder of Texas youth Coach Michael Hickmon, a grandfather and father of three, during a game.

Now what?

In a heated Facebook Live address following the untimely cancellation, Mr. Carr mentioned that “95%” of the attendees of the game were there to support a effort that is worth supporting, and “5%” ruined it for everyone. I think that’s a fair assessment of the situation we find ourselves in. Our  youth, and communities deserve to benefit from this new, incredible spaces for youth football, created by business-minded, and community-minded men like KJ Ishmael and Richie Clermont. Both program leaders have addressed the situation, taken accountability and have pledge to move forward from this disappointment.

Admirable as they may be, they can’t move forward alone. These model programs deserve our support, and financial backing. And that opportunity was stolen from us on Sunday afternoon, by childish adults and cowards acting tough. Future viability of this sport is in jeopardy because, as Dr. Phillips Head Coach Rodney Wells, put it:

“Adults are messing up events that are meant for the kids.”

It needs to stop.

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WRITER’S NOTE: This story is developing, standby for updates.

 


 

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FHSAA Board approves NIL for Florida Student Athletes in unanimous ruling

Robert Brumfield

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In a unanimous 13-0 ruling yesterday, a Florida High School Athletic Association board voted to allow high school student athletes to receive NIL payments beginning this fall. The move comes almost three years after the NCAA finally cleared the way for college student athletes to receive NIL money.

NIL, the abbreviation for name, likeness, and image, permits student athletes to seek out businesses and/or individuals to help with financial needs, similar to a sponsor. While there will be no shortage of outcry that the move will further divide the talent gap in some situations, the decision was, in this writer’s humble opinion, the right way to go.

Raising money for high school athletes is difficult. Long gone are the days of car washes and candy drives to help young athletes finance their dreams. Average families feel the hurt on their bank accounts when they have a young football player, let alone more than one, that has a multitude of needs entering a sports season. Healthy food, supplements, training equipment, trainers/independent workout coaches, cleats, and even weights have all surged in price. The student athlete’s ability to pay for these things without the financial strain affecting their families is invaluable.

The new rule goes into effect just in time for the 2024-2025 year, but it is not without rules and restrictions. Students and their parents are solely responsible for securing NIL arrangements. Student athletes will not be allowed to use their school’s image, name, or logo in connection to their NIL deals, creating separation between the deal and the school itself.

An important note: The FHSAA NIL Guidelines will not allow “NIL collectives”, an obvious decision to try and stop organized groups with private donors/collection efforts to mass raise money with the intent to hoard disproportionate numbers of top tier recruits. The rules also prohibit high schools from using NIL money to lure athletes to their programs. Athletes transferring mid-year will not be the wild west landscape that it is in NCAA, requiring high school athletes to obtain a “good cause exemption” before receiving NIL deals after an in-season transfer. Violations of the rules of Florida NIL will result in a formal warning and termination of the agreement on a first offense, and a one-year ban in the event of a second offense.

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As with any new system revolving around young athletes, it will take time to round out the rough edges and fine tune the details. There are surely going to be entire coalitions of high school coaches and administrators that do not want to see Florida High School athletics become the chaos the NCAA has seemingly become. For every detractor, though, there are many more in favor of this decision.

Board member Sara Bayliss, a counselor at Saint John Paul II Catholic in Tallahassee was quoted after the ruling; “It’s not pay-for-play per se, but I think we’re trying to avoid what’s happened on the collegiate side.” She continued that she didn’t “think it would be used widely” and if the time came that NIL became a recruiting problem “we’ll deal with it”.

Within hours, student athletes were cashing in on their newfound ability to earn from their personal brands.

Some coaches are, understandably, nervous and uneasy by the decision. One Florida football coach said he could see the potential of “if there is a star player and there’s a university out there that wants him, now that university has the ability to funnel money to that kid, to get him to whatever university”.

There was also significant outcry from many online that the way for NIL had been cleared for high school athletes, yet coach and teacher pay was still stagnating, which is a fair argument in most cases. Notably, the Florida Coaches Coalition Twitter/X account posted how the coaches seemed to feel overall.

That is a real concern and one that will be incredibly tricky to navigate and police. There will be bad faith actors involved at some point. There will be violations. There will be mistakes made, both by student athletes and sources of NIL money. However, the benefits to these young people will far outweigh the drawbacks. The ability to provide themselves with the best nutrition, training regimen, and equipment will not only reduce strain on families and bolster the athlete, it will increase the quality of the sport being played across the board.

There are certainly challenges ahead as the Florida High School athletics landscape adjusts to this landmark ruling, but overall I would say this is a big win for high school student athletes.

Thanks for getting your Florida high school sports news here at Sports Club Florida! Make sure to check out our other great contributors for more on your favorite Florida sports teams.

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Building Relationships with the Community: Gus Malzahn Winning Strategy

Tramayne Wright

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Coach Lo discusses how Gus Malzahn identifies the key figures within the local community in Central Florida.

 

Gus Malzahn had a vision. He saw the potential in the local sports scene and knew he had to seize the opportunity. Coach Lo Wood vividly remembers the strategic move that set Malzahn apart: reaching out to key figures in the community.

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“The first thing I recognized about Gus was how he instantly reached out to the guys in the community,” Coach Wood shared. “He called me up and said, ‘I want to be in a relationship with you.’ And it wasn’t just talk. Gus meant it. He wanted to build something real.”

Mazzone’s approach wasn’t just about forming superficial connections. He sought out genuine relationships with influential community members. Soon, other notable figures like AG Waseem and Ellis Danley were echoing the same sentiment. “Next thing you know, there’s AG Waseem saying the same thing, ‘I want to be in a relationship with you.’ Then he calls Ellis Danley with the same message. It was clear that Gus was building a network of trust and cooperation,” Coach Wood explained.

These were not random choices. The individuals Malzahn reached out to were deeply embedded in the community, and respected for their roles and commitment to the local youth. “Who are all these guys he’s been in a relationship with?” Coach Wood asked. “They’re the guys from the community, the ones who have the kids with them every day. They’re the mentors, the coaches, the father figures.”

Malzahn vision was to ensure that talented athletes didn’t feel the need to leave their hometown to find success. “I knew right then that a lot of athletes were going to stay home and be hometown heroes,” Coach Wood stated. “That’s the way to do it.”

He elaborated on the significance of this approach. “When you have someone like Gus, who invests in the community and builds these relationships, it creates a support system for the kids. They see that they can achieve their dreams right here, with the people who have always been there for them. It’s about pride, it’s about belonging, and it’s about giving back.”

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Coach Wood believes this method will have a lasting impact. “What Gus is doing isn’t just about winning games. It’s about building character, fostering community spirit, and creating a legacy. These kids are not just athletes; they’re future leaders, and Gus is showing them that they can lead from their own backyard.”

Malzahn efforts are not just about creating successful athletes; they are about nurturing future leaders who can lead from their own community. By building a strong foundation within the local sports scene, Gus Malzahn is making a lasting impact that will benefit the community for generations to come.

 

 

Coach Lo talks about The Importance of Building a Strong Community for the UCF Knights

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Creative High School Pep Rally Ideas to Boost School Spirit

Tramayne Wright

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One of the most important things about high school culture is pep rallies, a festive and spirited way to increase pride among pupils and support sports teams as well as recognize an achievement. Pep rallies need to be made memorable and engaging so that organizers can try new ideas that will make students interested in what is happening around them and love their alma mater even more. The following guide contains many creative ideas for pep rallies in high schools that can invigorate the students and motivate them, thus creating a feeling of unity among the participants which shall prevail throughout the entire school.

1. Theme-Based Pep Rallies

Organize pep rallies with themes that are associated with fun activities such as games to make them interesting. Just choose any topic about what they like doing mostly for instance one could consider “Decades Day,” “Superhero Showdown,” or “Hollywood Stars.” Participants could be encouraged to adorn these costumes, decorate the setting accordingly, and include related activities, games, or other performances within the program of this gathering.

2. Lip Sync Battles

A lip sync battle where students, teachers, and staff compete against each other by miming popular songs could also form part of such pompous gatherings. Their creativity needs to come out while showcasing dancing styles and on-stage behaviors during this time in addition to inviting audience participation through cheering for their preferred groups. Props suits or special effects may all be added up as elements that will boost performances making them lively.

3. Dance-Off Competitions

Involving student dance groups, cheerleading squads, and faculty teams competing in different dance-off competitions would also be appropriate for such events. These could even incorporate different types of dances ranging from hip-hop to jazz on top of salsa or breakdancing before giving a chance for judges’ votes on the best performers present at that time hence creating a remarkable show gunning for people’s hearts.

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4. Pep Rally Games and Challenges

Various kinds of games and challenges can be used to test the student’s skills, camaraderie, and school spirit. Some examples of such include relay races, obstacle courses, tug-of-war contests, and trivia quizzes among others where classes or grades can compete against each other. For all these fun activities to be a success, it is advisable to offer tokens to victors as well as ensure that everyone takes part in them enthusiastically.

5. Spirit Contests and Awards

For the sake of promoting pride in schools, this may require organizing spirit contests that will encourage students’ involvement and celebrate their enthusiasm. This includes announcing competitions such as; best-dressed student or teacher, loudest cheering section, most spirited class or creative poster/banner, etc. They should also use cheers representing their schools through various chants while displaying support towards their teams or even classmates.

6. Special Guest Performances

There should be additional excitement during pep rallies by inviting some guests like local bands or cheerleading squads to entertain and inspire students. You may consider having talented students who are successful musicians, and dancers among others perform on stage before surprising the audience with some unexpected acts by special guests throughout this rally. These can also give one more reason why they should come back next time.

7. Interactive Technology and Multimedia

If incorporated into pep rallies these allow for a more immersive event thereby making it memorable for students using interactive technology and multimedia tools which have been used by teachers in classrooms over years now. For instance use of video screens or LED displays and sound systems would help to improve visual designs plus audio effects supplemented with live streaming whereby those who cannot attend physically get involved via social media networks too at times when others participate virtually through play-offs taking place live during this kind of manifestation on line.

8. Community Service and Philanthropy

The infusion of service and philanthropic initiatives into pep rallies will give them a sense of purpose and social responsibility. Link up with local charities, non-profit organizations, or voluntary groups to bring awareness about critical issues through such drives. Students can be allowed to do fundraising activities, have donation drives, and volunteer tasks among others in which they impact their communities positively while showing compassion for their school.

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Conclusion

Creative high school pep rally ideas rekindle the energy in students hence inspiring, uniting, and building an identity within them as well as their pride in their schools. These memories can only be created by planning themed rallies, hosting lip sync battles, and dance-off competitions together with other pep rally games, acknowledging spirited students and faculty members during the event, and inviting special performers among other personalities that can make it lively; they should provide this fun using interactive multimedia technology by including tools like iPads on the list of requirements for those who want to participate effectively as pupils can use them for various reasons even beyond imagination.

Yet with ingenuity and an unwavering adherence to school spirit, high school pep rallies could be revivified into vibrant inclusive occasions that unite and inflame student’s devotion towards their institution.

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