The Gulfport Pirates youth football squad put in some real work this past Saturday at the Gulfport Recreation Center field, overlooking Boca Ciega Bay. Players between the ages of 4 and 14 were out under the heavy Florida sun using knee-high hurdles for plyometric training, an agility ladder for foot speed drills, Gulfport Beach for wind-sprint relays, and participating in 7 on 7 team scrimmages.
“Spring training is basically for exercise and conditioning,” said Pirates’ Vice President, Sophia Dottin. “They’ll be in pads, starting regular practice on July 6.”
Since 2011, the Pirates have represented Gulfport in the American Youth Football organization, an organization of youth football which sets itself apart from Pop Warner Football, Florida’s former preeminent youth football league, by not dividing the players up by weight, but by age.
“We don’t weigh kids,” said Dottin. “Whatever their age is before August 1, that’s the group they’ll play in.”
Children between the ages of 4 and 6 will play flag football and only have to pay $60 for their league registration fee. Starting at age 7, kids will be in pads, playing tackle, and have a registration fee of $90, since the equipment is provided by the team. Discounts are available for families with four or more children playing, and for coaches who have two or more of their own children playing.
The Lady Pirates, the organization’s cheerleading squad, were also getting in a work-out this past Saturday.
“The girls were doing the same thing — exercising and conditioning,” said Dottin. “They’ll also learn correct cheerleading terminology, where to stand, how their arms should be.”
The registration fee for cheerleaders is $100. Kids between the ages of 4 and 14 can sign up. The $100 registration fee includes not only cheerleading at the Pirates games, but a cheer competition between other cheer squads as well.
Both the Pirates and Lady Pirates welcome support from the community. For $1,000 a community member or their business can be a team sponsor; for $2,500 an organization sponsor; and for $5,000 a corporate sponsor. There are also opportunities to provide scholarships for individual players: $60 for a flag scholarship and $100 for either a tackle player scholarship or cheerleader scholarship.