WENATCHEE — Budding football players in the Wenatchee Valley will soon have a new league in which to learn and grow in the sport, one that its founder says brings the cachet and stability of a national organization.
Registration is underway now for the Central Cascade Pop Warner football league, which features tackle football for youths from ages 5-12, and cheerleading for kids of the same ages.
Tim Hays, the football commissioner of the league, said his idea to start a Pop Warner program in Wenatchee arose from his own family’s need.
“My son is 11 years old and weighs 75 pounds. Playing in the (NCW Youth Football League), he had to play up with kids who were older and bigger,” said Hays, a behavior specialist in Wenatchee and a former professional rodeo cowboy. “I liked that Pop Warner would allow him to play with kids who are the same size. I liked the cheer aspect and the family dynamic.”
Hays also liked the academic standards that all Pop Warner players and cheerleaders must meet in order to participate.
“You have to hand in report cards and maintain a 2.0 grade-point average to play,” Hays said. “They hold everyone to a higher standard.”
That includes the coaches, who are subject to background checks before they’re allowed to mentor the kids.
The league (CCPW) will be affiliated with the Spokane-based Inland Northwest Pop Warner association and will play its games at Eastmont Junior High school.
In an homage to the past football tradition at Wenatchee Valley College, the teams in the five age divisions will be called the Knights.
Hays said CCPW has already registered 40 kids in the Wenatchee area, and will have three more sign ups (May 4, 5, 12) at Eastmont High School. A silent auction to raise money for equipment and scholarships is planned for May 19 at the Wenatchee Convention Center. Practices begin Aug. 1, and the first games of the season will be held on Labor Day.
Although registration costs between $110 and $125 for football and $100 for cheerleading, Hays doesn’t intend to turn away any interested youngsters.
“We’re raising money as much as we can, and we’re excited about the auction. Personally, I want the signed Jake Locker jersey,” Hays chuckled.
After the first year of operation, CCPW will be eligible to host postseason tournaments, which Hays said will infuse tourism dollars into the valley. He hopes that a CCPW team will one day be among the squads to compete at the Pop Warner National Championships, held each year at the Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Fla.
“For a team from here to play on ESPN, that would be a great day,” Hays said.