Going into their 3rd season as a program in the NGYFA, the Oglethorpe County football program has found its direction and focus: Community
Due to their proximity to neighboring non-NGYFA programs (Athens-area teams), the Oglethorpe County football program throughout the years have seen their teams decimated by players leaving to join other leagues due to mostly financial reasons. To stop the bleeding of players departing to perceived greener pastures, the staff at the Oglethorpe County Recreation Department met with the longest tenured coaches, parents, and key stakeholders in the football community and developed a plan of action to ensure that every child in Oglethorpe County who wants to play football CAN play football.
The old saying "It takes a village to raise a child" still rings true in Oglethorpe County. To help raise scholarship funds for those in need, the coaches and parents of the Patriot football program decided to have numerous yard sales, bake sales, silent auctions and a wildly successful Adult Softball tournament.
The result was an increase of more than 110% in participation from 2014.
Oglethorpe County Recreation Director Ben McDaniel stated. "Our focus as a program and as a department is community. If we can get parents of one team together with parents of another team, we are not just building a program--we are building community. A kid doesn't leave to go play in some other league if he has roots established with 20 other families. When you go look at Jefferson, Commerce, and Madison County for example, each team has a large community built around it. Those parents are invested in the lives of every player on their child's team and the teams above and below them. These parents understand that those players are going to be his teammates in middle and high school."
To put this philosophy into action, the Recreation Department decided to make the first full-padded practice special!
On Saturday, August 1st, over 100 players, cheerleaders and their families arrived at 7pm at Bryan Park to watch practice under the lights and to fellowship with each other. Each team and cheer squad was assigned items to bring and a few special dads demonstrated their grill skills while serving as grill masters!
After a great first full-padded practice, each team went through the line and ate hamburgers, hotdogs, and a lot of grandma's special potato salad. As 10pm rolled around, parents where slowly breaking-up the numerous touch football games that had broken out and where loading their exhausted children into their vehicle.
Success isn't going to happen overnight. Every team and program will have their growing pains…but by getting every parent in the Oglethorpe County Patriot Football program together and invested in one another, this is a great step in the right direction.