Lake Wales Steelers Youth Football Leauge Hosting 1st Home Game This Saturday
by James Coulter
With 150 players and counting, the Lake Wales Steelers youth football leauge is set to host their first home game of the season this Saturday at 9 a.m. at Legion Field, located at 240-298 N Wales Dr, Lake Wales, FL 33853.
More than 150 to 160 players between the ages of 4 to 15 (with mascots at the age of 3) were enrolled this season completley free of cost. The youth football leauge is still accepting football enrollment from players ages 7 to 15 at no cost. (Flag division ages 4 to 6 is full.)
The first home game will kick off with an apperance from Lake Wales Mayor Eugene Fultz, the Director of the YMCA Lake Wales, and several principals from the local schools, including Spook Hill Elementary, Polk Elementary, Bok Academy North, and Lake Wales High School.
Deanna Holtsclaw, Head of Fundraising and Head Flag Division Cheerleading Coach, hopes that the attendance of such important local figures will serve as an inspiration for the players, as they will know that their whole town supports them and their athletic endeavors.
“It is not just the coaches that believe in them, it is everybody, the pillars throughout the community,” she said. “It is our educators, it is our mayors, it is our doctors and our lawyers. There are so many people who want to truly want to see these children to strive and achieve these things.”
As for the players themselves, this year saw an exceptional turnout, even in spite of the ongoing COVID crisis and the recent outbreak of the Delta variant. While Holtsclaw expects some players to drop out due to these uncertain circumstances, she also expects many more to enroll and those who remain to endure.
“We have had a great turnout,” she said. “These children have poured their hearts into the season. They have dedicated themselves, they jumped in with both feet, and they do an absolutley amazing job. We have amazing coaches in every single division.”
The Lake Wales Youth Football Leauge, Inc. is a non-profit, tax-deductible organization. To ensure that all children are able to participate regardless of economic status, all children between 4 to 15 can join at no cost to themselves. The only requirement asked from the parents is to provide cleats for the boys and tennis shoes for the girls.
“Our normal tuition is $150 per child, [but] we waive this because we see that the world all around us in a complete pandemic,” Deanna said. ” I want all children to feel the support, the encouragement, and the pride that we have in them knowing that no matter what they come from, no matter what they background, some of them come from hardship situations where they face economic hardships and they would not normally be able to sign on.”
To help cover their expenses, the youth football leauge often hosts fundraisers. They also accept donations, which are tax-deductible. Overall, 90 percent of everything was completley covered,
explained Holtsclaw. Being able to cover these expenses has allowed the organization to accept children from all backgrounds, thus offering them an opportunity they would otherwise be shut out of, she said.
“We wanted to show that they can achieve anything outside our mission,” she said. “[We want] to motivate them and inspire them and to show them that they are able to reach new pinnacles and they are able to do things that their heart desires if they put the effort behind it—that us, as their activists, the coaches and teachers and volunteers, we can show them that they can accomplish all things. I cannot wait to see what the outcome will be.”
Currently, the youth football leauge is accepting donations of all kinds, be it monetary, food, or even transportation. Many of their players are unable to afford transportation to out-of-town games, so they are currently seeking to purchase two 15-passanger vans. They would appreciate either money to purchase these vehicles, or donations of the actual vehicles themselves.
As for their upcoming game, both the children are excited to be able to participate, and the coaches are excited to give them the opportunity to play and prove themselves when they otherwise would not have that chance.
“Every game is a win,” Holtsclaw said. “As long as we go out there with heart, and believing in each other and supporting each other and cheering for each other, every game is a win. Obviously, the children are going for the win, but not matter what the outcome is on the score board, every child there won because they had somebody show up and say that they cared and that they made a difference.”
Donations can be made to: 319 S. Scenic Highway Suite 104B, Lake Wales, Florida 33853. Their Tax ID is: 59-3587696. For more information, call 863-332-2500.