PHOTOS: Youth football league brings community, families to the field

By Susan Fried

Stepping onto the field at a Northwest Premier Junior Football and Cheer League game, one might think the whooping, cheering crowd is watching a National Football League championship. But they’re not. They’re cheering on tiny children, bobble-headed in football helmets.

Within the South Seattle-based league, youth football is as much about family as it is about the actual game. Those cheering from the sidelines for these players aren’t just football fans: they’re parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins.

“I live on a football field,” said Sharlene, as she watched her two youngest use their older brother’s football helmets at forts for their stuffed animals, during a game at Garfield High School in late September. She’s a mother of four sons, two of whom play for the Northwest Premier Junior Football and Cheer (NPJFC) League team, the CD Panthers.

There are 12 teams in the league, and five age groups: Rookies (ages 6 and under), Freshman (ages 8 and under), Sophomores (ages 10 and under), Juniors (ages 12 and under), and Seniors (ages 14 and under). The families of the kids who play in the league spend at least one day every weekend from the end of August through November watching football. 

All that work culminates in the league championships, which will be held this year on Nov. 10 at Renton Stadium. The Rookie Benson Bruins will play the Rainier Ravens. The Freshman CD Panthers will match up against the Benson Bruins, while the Sophomore championship game will feature the Benson Bruins against the Beacon Hill Cowboys. The CD Panthers will battle the Benson Bruins for the Junior title, and the Puget Sound Lancers will face off against the SeaTac Sharks.

There’s almost as much activity happening on the side lines as on the field. The younger children who have already played continue to roughhouse and throw the football off-field, while the older kids play on the field. Athletes’ siblings also play together in the stands, and  cheerleaders perform for the crowd and players.

Anita Koyier-Mwamba’s son Oteka plays for the CD Panthers Junior team. Koyier-Mwamba admits she was skeptical, when her son asked if he could play football at just six years old. As an immigrant from Kenya, she wasn’t familiar with the traditions of American football or even the basics of how to sign a kid up for team sports; and unlike many of the moms she encountered, Koyier-Mwamba didn’t have the history of growing up in the community, watching her brothers and friends play the game or her father and uncles coach it. 

But now, Koyier-Mwamba characterizes herself as a “true football mom.”  

“My fellow moms teach me every day how special our membership in the football moms club is. When one of our boys struggle, we rally around them,” she said in an email. “We stand together in victory and loss. We dry tears, offer hugs, raise expectations high and, ultimately, wind down the season anticipating the next. My football family has added so much color and flavor to my life.”

No matter what happens on Nov. 10, the stands will be filled with family and friends, cheering on their favorite teams, and getting ready for next year when the fun starts all over again.

For more information check out the Northwest Premier Junior Football league’s website or their Facebook page.

SSE CD Panthers -CD Panther 10u
The CD Panthers 10u team gathers round their coaches during half time of their Sept. 29 game against the the Boys and Girls Club Seahawks at Garfield High School in Seattle, Washington. (Photo: Susan Fried)
SSE CD Panthers -little brothers
Brothers Abel, 3, left, and Milo, 5, right, play with their older brothers’ helmets on the sidelines of the Sept. 29 game between the CD Panthers and the Boys and Girls Club Seahawks at Garfield High School in Seattle, Washington. (Photo: Susan Fried)
SSE CD Panthers -trying on shoulder pads
Aleia, 2, tries on her brother’s shoulder pads on the sidelines of the CD Panthers games against the Boys and Girls Club Seahawks at Garfield High school on Sept. 29 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo: Susan Fried)
SSE Football -Raven vs Cowboy 9-15-19-King
A Rainier Raven tries to stop a Beacon Hill Cowboy,, as he charges down field with the ball, during their match-up Sept. 15 at Genessee Park in Seattle, Washington. (Photo: Susan Fried)
SSE Football 5 Star Carlos Alegria & son
Carlos Alegria talks to his son Carlo, after his team, the 5 Star Cougars, lost to the Beacon Hill Cowboys on Sept. 21 at the Rainier Playfield in Seattle, Washington. (Photo: Susan Fried)
SSE Football 5 Star-grandma
5 Star Cougars cheerleader, Jordynn, 7, rides on the back of her grandma Katrina Davis’s scooter, during the Cougars games against the Beacon Hill Cowboys, Sept. 21 at the Rainier Playfield in Seattle, Washington. (Photo: Susan Fried)
SSE football Raven
A member of the Rainier Ravens carries a little fan to the sidelines, after he ran onto the field during half time of the Sept. 9 game between the Ravens and the CD Panthers at Franklin High School in Seattle, Washington. (Photo: Susan Fried)
SSE football Coach help-08357
Five Star Cougars  coach Phillip Asphy, helps Elijah Green get his uniform off, after the Cougars played the Beacon Hill Cowboys, Sept. 21 at Rainier Playfield in Seattle, Washington. (Photo: Susan Fried)
SSE fB-5 star 8U Champion Purdman-Nathan Dean-08263
Champion Purdmon, left, and Nathan Dean, both 5 Star Cougar players, roughhouse on the sidelines, during the Sept. 21 game against the Beacon Hill Cowboys at Rainier Playfield in Seattle, Washington. (Photo: Susan Fried)

Featured image: A Rainier Raven player evades a pack of Beacon Hill Cowboys, during their game on Sept. 15 at Genessee Playfield in Seattle, Washington. (Photo: Susan Fried)

 

 

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