As the Delta Patriots youth football and cheer organization prepares to kick off its season in August, it has a message for prospective players: You can play even if you can’t pay.
The 14-year-old establishment, which canceled its season early last year following inter-organizational conflicts, is offering to cover playing costs for those in need as part of a push to resurrect the once-proud entity.
“I am sad seeing kids who want to get out of the house, get off the streets, not be able to,” said Delta Patriots President John Woodruff. “We are trying to give these kids an opportunity to come out and do something fun and exciting, something where we can come together as a community. All we ask in return is that the player is dedicated to the team and comes to practices and games.”
Woodruff, team parents and some sponsors have contributed funds to the effort, which appears to be paying off for the 6- to 14-year-old football players and 6- to 13-year-old cheerleaders.
About a dozen budding gridiron stars could be seen running through drills, surrounded by the sounds of positive coaching this week during the organization’s practice at Old River Elementary School in Brentwood.
Not far away, a host of cheerleaders practiced their routines just days after starring in a competition.
The sights and sounds indicate the teams have new life after board member and coaching conflicts forced the early end to last season.
The fixture has new board members and coaches who want to return the organization to its roots as an inclusive, positive community that motivates players while challenging them mentally and physically.
The players and their parents — rather than a governing board — now make key organizational decisions, said Delta Patriots Vice President Savea Hunkin.
“I want to make every kid happy, every parent happy,” he said. “If I see a kid happy, I am happy.”
The Patriots are expected to field two or three football teams this season.
Young participants new to the game will play a six-on-six style of tackle football on a 40-yard field, while older players will jump into traditional 11-on-11 games, just like their high school counterparts they watch on Friday nights.
Contests are scheduled against squads from Dublin, Stockton, Manteca, Modesto and Tracy.
“We want them to turn into family and have fun out there, which is what they do when they are here,” said Melody Moody as her 6- and 11-year-old football players practiced. “We are excited for the first game.”
Off the field, officials said there are also plans to begin helping participants academically, with on-site tutors at practices.
Plans are also in the works to roll out future youth baseball, basketball and track and field opportunities, Woodruff said.