A SWAC Cougar player breaks through the defense during practice.
SLIDESHOW: SWAC Cougars football takes off
By Paul Moseley
If you pass by SWAC field most weeknights, you’ll likely see the swarm of red uniforms filled with rowdy players 6-14 years old knocking each other around in the SWAC Cougar football program. Four teams, 199 players, 55 cheerleaders, coaches, parents and volunteers occupy end zone to end zone and onto the utility field.
According to Cougar president Shon Sweet, that wasn’t the case just a few years ago. “We had 99 football players, 15 kids per team, and a small handful of cheerleaders. The board was looking to possibly shut it down for lack of equipment.” According to Sweet, the helmets were too old and unsafe. Even Sweet’s nephew was the victim of poor equipment, suffering a concussion.
As the new president of the group, Sweet asked to board to help get aggressive on fundraising for new equipment. The board – and the community – responded.
A flurry of fundraising activities, including team participation in street fairs, an Applebees breakfast, parents-night-out at the Industry Lounge, and even a donated signed hat from the Seahawks, let the club buy 120 helmets 2 summers ago…and the kids were coming in droves. “We bought another 30 helmets this year”. Now they’re going after shoulder pads.
Looking at the Cougars now, it’s easy to see that the fundraising and hard work from the coaches and volunteers has created a super energetic and positive environment. Seven year olds are running Oklahoma drills, coaches are mixing it up in the middle of the scrimmage, parents are watching the practice intently and the cheerleaders are drilling with absolute purpose. And "no kid gets turned away because they can't pay" says Sweet.
So, what’s next? Part of the mission of the group is to provide life instruction in addition to pure sports. Their website highlights free seminars on healthy living habits. Right now, it’s just talks during practice, but the goal is to increase and improve the seminars. “We’re working really hard to get it going” said Sweet. “Our biggest problem is, we don’t have space.” Even public local venues charge $400-500, so the Cougars keep working to find a place they can afford that’s big enough to give meaningful presentations on things like nutrition and smart training.
And of course, they still need more equipment. The Cougars will likely benefit from the upcoming Sept. 7 Union Ride and Charity Rally, where a custom Seattle Seahawks motorcycle will be auctioned with some of the proceeds going towards helmets and video education on traumatic brain injuries.
At the end of the day though, it’s all about the football experience. Asked what the main goal of the SWAC Cougars program is this year, Sweet was clear. “Our overall goal to have a successful season….it’s not by the wins in the columns, it’s about all the kids having fun and wanting to come back and play football again. Have fun and compete, and learn the life lessons through football.” If you spend just a little time with the players and coaches in this program, you can tell they are well on their way to reaching that goal.
SWAC Cougar Football
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