News Festival

Idaho Press Tribune 8 Jun 2001 - Pg 1B

A festival of youth football

Chris Gove - IPT

NAMPA -- Never mind the balmy temperatures, the shorts and the music blaring from the oldies band. For area youths Thursday at Lakeview Park, it was football season -- here in the first full week of June.

That’s because Nampa Optimist Youth Football co-hosted an event of national significance -- the NFL Gatorade Punt, Pass and Kick Competition -- along with concluding registration for its fall football leagues.

The atmosphere at the event was like a festival, with aspiring athletes aged 8 through 15 sprawling through the park and getting instruction from a number of Boise Stallions players.

As an added perk, boys and girls winners in each age category are eligible to participate in the next level of the Punt, Pass and Kick program at the sectional level. Eventually, the top entrants from across the nation will compete for the national title at next year’s Super Bowl.

"We’ve got people from all over helping us," said Kenny Wroten, who helped the football league. "Everybody comes together and a lot of them don’t even have kids. They just want to be involved and it’s really nice to see. Last year, we ran one of these just to run it, just to kind of give the kids something to do.

"This year, we went out and got it sanctioned so the winners will actually move on. We hope to do this every year. The season doesn’t start till about the middle of August, so we do this now as kind of a kickoff fund raiser."

Outback Steak House donated food for the fund raiser, with Nampa Optimist Youth Football making $10 on each plate to go toward its new Optimist Park and football complex.

As for the competition, entrants competed in four different age categories for both boys and girls: 8-9, 10-11, 12-13 and 14-15. Winners were decided by the combined length in each of the three phases of competition: punting, passing and kicking from a tee.

Ian Brown

Ian Brownm, 9 of Nampa prepares to throw the football during the NFL Gatorade Punt, Pass and Kick competition Thursday afternoon at Lakeview Park. The event was hosted by Nampa Optimist Youth Football.

"I want to do better than half the boys," said Donna Gillespie, a 9-year-old from Nampa who says her favorite sports to play are football and baseball.

In fact, Gillespie did go on to finish third in the girls’ 8-9 age category. And though Wroten was happy to have entrants from all over the area competing, he also got at least one out-of-state competitor in 11-year-old Joel Aranda.

Visiting his brother for the summer in Nampa, Aranda was surprised to see the horde of people at Lakeview Park enjoying the event. "I didn’t think there would be that many people here," Aranda said. "It is pretty fun."

Reprinted by permission of Idaho Press Tribune
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