Little Devils football takes 32 players to Tenn. tournament
The Clinton Little Devils youth tackle football team traveled to Gatlinburg, Tennessee to participate in the Gatlinburg Thanksgiving Bowl, Nov. 22-25.
This event was included in the plans for the first-year organization when we began recruiting players.
While many opted not to go to this event for various reasons, I want to talk about the courage, drive and commitment of our 32 players who did go.
When I contacted Rocky Top about bringing the Clinton Little Devils to the Thanksgiving Bowl, I was told that we could come and that Rocky Top would match our teams against similar teams based on size (weight), record and experience. Unfortunately, that did not happen. This issue was addressed with the organizers at Rocky Top.
One of the reasons we were not matched against a similar team was because their attendance has dropped over the years. There were only four teams in the two categories we were in. Nevertheless, our 32 players wanted to play. They were excited to play and despite the fact they didn’t win, they had fun playing which means they enjoyed and valued the experience.
Now, I realize there are those who have and will continue to criticize the organization. But I just want to say to those who are avid Clinton Red Devil fans; these boys will be great assets to the Middle School and High School football teams in the future.
They demonstrated that they have the guts, character and drive to go against an opponent, regardless the size.
I am so proud of all the players who played with the Clinton Little Devils this season. The players who went to Tennessee represented the organization well. Throughout the games, we were complimented by many coaches and organizers. We were well organized and the players were disciplined. Can I also say, they looked good, too.
One of the teams we played was the Powerhouse Pride from North Carolina. Their head coach, Aaron Caldwell, sent me the following email:
“I hope all is well. I just wanted to send you a note to recognize your program for their hard work and dedication to sportsmanship. I can tell that this program is on the upswing with a commitment to great attitudes, focus and effort. If you every need anything, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. Keep it up!”
We are very grateful for the coaches who went with the team. For the 8U team, we had Travis Peake and Jayson Glenn.
Travis Peake showed up willing to teach the team. This was his first year coaching, and he has learned a lot. Travis had two sons (Jaylin and Jy’son) and two cousins (JyMere Copeland and Jaiden Jeter) playing on the teams as well as his daughter, Jasmine, cheering. He has committed the time to help the 8U team stay motivated as they played. Travis will return next year to coach one of the 8U teams.
Jayson Glenn has proved to be invaluable to the organization all season, volunteering to paint the football field as well as taking on the coaching responsibility in Tennessee. Jayson’s son, Owen, was the quarterback for the team.
Jayson has spent many hours working with his son, as well as getting assistance from other quarterbacks (former Gamecock quarterbacks, Stephen Garcia and Perry Orth, who are co-owners of QB1 Athletics) to help Owen. I watched Jayson react to Owen when he was playing. He is promoting a strong and determined young man with such positive reinforcement and teaching. Jayson will coach a 10U team next year.
When asked about the program and team going to Tennessee, this is what Jayson had to say:
“It’s been amazing how this organization has come together in a short period of time. There have definitely been some bumps along the road, but lessons have been learned to make the future of the program much better. I’ve seen these kids grow throughout the season, from the first days of conditioning to the last game in Gatlinburg. We’ve got a good base to build on for the next year and beyond.”
Our 12u team consisted of players from our 10U team and the 12U team. The coaches for the 12U team were Joshua Fleming, Elick Anderson and Denise Thompson.
Joshua Fleming has been with the 12U team throughout the season. His son, Malachi, played on the 12U team. Joshua’s mild manner, yet direct, approach to coaching was seen throughout the season.
Elick Anderson was an assistant coach for the 10U Red team. He is a very quiet, yet observant individual who encourages the players to do their best. His son, Malik, played on the 10U team and was with us as a supporter in Tennessee. Elick will return next year to coach one of the 10U teams.
Denise Thompson is new to football, but she is a dedicated mother who has jumped in and joined the team to support and encourage the players. She stepped on the field during the first game of the season acknowledging that she did not know much about football, but I will bear witness that this lady has taken on the task of learning the game and building her son’s abilities. She would take her son to PC during the weekend to help him run and catch the ball. She had him running with a parachute to help him get stronger. She will be part of one of the 10U coaching staffs next year.
“The CLD organization is truly amazing and I love the vision everyone has for these kids. Seeing the kid’s passion and love for the sport makes me as a parent and past athlete, want to go even harder and push the kids to follow their dreams and always encourage one another to be the best at what they do. I’m really looking forward to coaching the kids next year as I enjoy encouraging and uplifting them as well. Let’s make the next season the best season yet and many to come for the CLD organization,” Denise Thompson said.
One of the things we talked to the players about was the fact that winning was not the main focus of why we went to Tennessee. It was an awesome learning experience. It helped the players see that they could step up and compete with others regardless of the size.
Would it have been nice to win, of course! But we didn’t in terms of the score. What we did win in was the strength and dedication of those players. We won in the commitment to stick it out. We won in the drive to be recognized as a team.
The last game the 12U team played was outmatched in terms of the size and experience of the players. I told the players and the coaches that they did not have to play the game. I also notified the organization that they changed our schedule from a more size equivalent team to the oversized players we went up against. They acknowledged they had made a mistake in scheduling us against this team and would accommodate us next year with discounts. But, the players - not the coaches, but the players - wanted to play anyway. Again, the heart to play, the drive to play and the willingness to play, I believe, will prove invaluable to the Middle School and High School program in the years to come.
We also won in the fun they had.
This trip was a first for some of the kids and I was amazed at how excited they were over some of the simple things. Some of us stayed at the resort that had an indoor water park. Need I say more! The sites in Gatlinburg, the lights, the race tracks, the bouncing house; everything that the kids could enjoy was exceptional!
An unfortunate downside to this trip was the ugliness some of the children have experienced from other kids. One incident involved one of my sons being approached by another child at school who said, “You guys sucked, don’t know why you went up there.” Now I put this in this article for a reason.
At some point these kids may be playing together and I doubt this would be a good example of team building and sportsmanship. I find it heartbreaking that kids can be so ugly to each other. My son took his comments in stride, and I am proud of my son for it.
My sister, Dr. Cynthia Crutchfield, has been a “behind the scene prayer warrior” throughout this process. She joined us in Tennessee and made the following comment about the CLDA:
“Annette modeled for the CLDA family the persistence and focuses that yields success. There were many opportunities for her to quit the pursuit of this vision, but she persisted past them all. So the CLDA was birthed in an atmosphere of hang tough, take the blows and see the plan through. In years to come, this season will be looked upon as the start of something great for the community.” My statement: “I have been blessed to walk this walk these past few months. Has it been easy, not always; but because I saw FAVOR from God throughout this process, my work was not in vain. Seeing those children who had excitement in their eyes to play this game was worth every criticism and every put down. You see, every time the enemy tried to knock me down with one thing, God lifted me twice with another. As long as I acknowledged where my strength and perseverance came from, I was alright. To those who encouraged me in this process, thank you so very much. To my Peninnahs in this process, God bless you. You had a job to do and many of you did it well because you forced me to stay in the face of God.” -Annette Lee
Throughout the season, we have been approached by various organizations to join their league.
We will be part of a league next year which will afford us, among many advantages, the schedule of all games at the beginning of the season. While the experience of seeking games for our teams was “exciting,” it was also exhausting. On a few occasions, the teams cancelled on us. Needless to say, this was frustrating not only to me in scheduling but the organization, parents, security and referees. We will invite the leagues to meet with the board and coaches to present their reasons why we should join them.
The culmination of this season will end in January at the Awards Banquet, which is tentatively scheduled for January 20, 2018. We have many to recognize … from the players and coaches to the incredible individual and businesses who supported us financially. Finally, the souvenir book will be completed within two weeks after the awards banquet. Anyone interested in adding a congratulatory comment or ordering a souvenir book can contact Annette Lee at 864-923-6813.
Registration for the 2018 season will begin on May 15th. We welcome those energetic young people who would like to play tackle football or be a cheerleader. We are also looking for more individuals to join our coaching staff (football and cheerleading).
We are very proud of the Clinton Little Devils and for those who will return next year, excited about what our program will be ... and God willing, we will be going back to Tennessee next year!!!