A new youth football league in South Dakota set to kick off this August is taking a faith-based approach to the sport.
The Argus Leader is reporting that longtime youth coaches Jeff Adler and Kelly Meeker, will feature 10 to 12 teams for fifth- and sixth-grade boys. The new league will emphasize Christian ministry among its coaches and players, working closely alongside the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA).
They are hoping the league will be a model that other coaches and parents across the nation can follow.
“It’s going to be a faith-based program,” said Adler, who along with Meeker founded the Air Attack Academy based out of Sioux Falls.
“The culture is broken in sports, where parents are yelling at their third-, fourth- or fifth-grade coaches about kids’ playing time or how a game’s called. We’re trying to get back to the roots of the game — about learning fundamentals and growing as a person.”
The inaugural season is expected to include about 250 players, and Adler is encouraged by the 75 registrations so far.
“We’re not trying to compete with anybody, though obviously it looks that way,” Adler said. “But like anything else — whether its a car dealership or restaurant — competition makes you better. And unfortunately we may draw some kids away from junior football, but our main goal is to provide a fun environment.”
The kids will sport new uniforms and play at a college stadium (University of Sioux Falls), giving its 10- to 12-year-old players a college game day experience.
The youth league has also looked to colleges such as Oregon — a program known as much for its popular jerseys and apparel as it is for football — for cues on style. Jerseys have been modeled after popular college variants.
“Will we have enough kids? Is there a need? Those questions kept coming up,” Adler said. “We started to address those questions with the FCA, and we started getting serious questions from parents. They want another option.”
“Our tagline is: Protect the head, protect the heart,” Adler said. “We’re trying to make it safe, trying to make it a faith-based league. We want to help change the culture of sports and give kids a fun, safe, positive environment.”