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When Clark Rowan took over as one of the park directors in Sherman, one of his primary goals was to create a youth tackle football program, targeting Union County.
“Right now, there are some places that have it, but it focuses on their kids,” he said. “There’s nothing designed for Union County, and I want kids to like the game and for them to want to come back and play again. We’re trying to build a program in Sherman, and I believe it can happen.”
Rowan’s program, for ages seven through 12, focuses on fundamentals while giving kids the chance to compete against other teams in the area. While the park is now filled each week, the league almost did not happen.
“When we held the first tryout, I had two kids,” Rowan explained. “I stayed up the entire night before thinking about what we were going to do, then only two kids showed up, but they said they had friends coming as well, so we held on to some hope.”
Rowan was able to put together a seven and eight year-old team and worked with Tupelo to set up games. Word quickly spread of the program, and in their final tryout, more than enough for each age group showed up, creating a league for all ages.
“We were thrilled when we had enough to make more teams, but then the problem became, who are we going to play?,” Rowan said. “Tupelo was able to help out with the young kids, but not with the older groups, so I made a call to Saltillo, and everything has worked from that point.”
With Saltillo’s league boasting an odd number of teams this season, one group a week travels to Sherman on Monday nights to play the older kids, in what has become a weekly event for the community.
“When I was growing up, you could go to Sherman on any given weekend, and the ball park was full of kids, smoke in the air from the grills, and that’s the way it was on our first Monday night,” Rowan said. “It was just awesome.”
Rowan has also enlisted the help of area coaches to offer insight for the program, as this is a building block for the future of football in the area.
“I talked to Coach (Scott) Duley and asked him to come out and talk about some things with our coaches, so that starting with the seven and eight year olds, when they get to junior high, they’ll have an idea of how to play,” he said. “I can see them improve from the first series to the next, and they’re playing well, all things considered.”
Football is not the only focus in the league, as young girls also contribute as cheerleaders.
“I had a couple people ask about having some cheerleaders, and I thought ‘Great. The more kids the better,’ so I asked around and have about 27 girls from all age groups out there every week,” Rowan said.
The league will continue to play each week through mid-November, and with more publicity, Rowan hopes to see even more kids next season.
“We were slow getting the word out this year, as I’m new at this,” he said. “Our hope is to start registration in the spring and have even more playing next year. For us, there are no boundaries.”