LONDON — Youth Football is back in Laurel County thanks to former South Laurel and Georgetown College football star Neil Warren, and the Laurel-London Optimist Club.
Warren recently met with Laurel-London Optimist Club officials, and both agreed the time was right to offer the kids of Laurel County the opportunity to play football once again.
“For the last several years, especially since having kids of my own, I haven't been able to understand why young kids in London are losing interest in the game of football,” Warren said. “There are a million different reasons one can speculate on, but I really believe it's the lack of opportunity to learn the game. That burden alone led me to start inquiring about flag football.
“Recently, I met with the board at the Optimist Club and they expressed the same concerns,” he added. “They have a great facility, but really don't have the number of volunteers it takes to help run another sport. I volunteered to not only support other interests of the Optimist Club, but to also run the flag league if they would allow. They voted unanimously to support the league. This is an Optimist Club Flag Football League that I will be overseeing.”
Warren said the flag football league will begin this fall with games taking place at the Laurel-London Optimist League Complex.
“There will be a first and second grade division and also a third and fourth grade division,” he said. “Sign-ups will be available online (http://laurellondonoptimistfoundation.org), at the Optimist Club, and at each elementary school in Laurel County during open house in August. We will have an evaluation on August 15, and on August 18. We will then have a draft and practices will begin immediately.
“Our first games will be September 3,” Warren added. “Games will be played on Tuesday and Thursday nights except for the conclusion of the season, which will be our Super Bowl Sunday on October 13, where we will crown a champion of each division. The schedule of this league won't interfere with any other elementary school activities and will not affect any high school football games either. There will be no weekend games other than that one final day, which will be a celebration.”
With player evaluations less than two months away, Warren said he’s excited to get the season kicked-off.
“I started playing Optimist Football 28 years ago,” he said. “Now that I have children of my own, I can't think of a better place for them to get started as well. I'm very grateful for the many life lessons that football has taught me and the education that it paid for. I'm hopeful that the introduction of this league will lead to many more Laurel County kids having an opportunity to get their education paid for through sport as well and hopeful this will be the beginning of that platform.
“Youth football is a direct reflection of high school football, and with no program a solid foundation can't be sustained,” Warren added. “This is a sustainable beginning as the cost of running a flag league is no where near the cost of tackle football. This league will allow youth to learn the fundamentals of the game and let there bodies develop a little longer before moving into full contact football. With increased concerns of head trauma in younger football players, I fully expect this flag league to be a big hit amongst younger kids trying to learn the game. I've committed to running the league for the next four years and will have a solid foundation for the league to continue for many years to come. This is a Laurel County League, this is not a South or North league, it's for every child in Laurel County. I've spoken to both our high school head coaches and they are both thrilled to see more kids have an opportunity to learn the game, and I hope to see them roaming the sidelines and checking out the action as much as they can.”