Lansing Man Organizes Free Youth Football Program
More than 100 kids are playing football, and more than 20 girls are cheerleading. And thanks to Matthew Brown, they're doing it for free.
Three years ago, Matthew Brown dropped his son off at football practice. While walking back to his car, he came across a struggling youth football team named the Lansing Dolphins.
"Kids heads were down after the game. Kids were going up to them saying 'you guys suck'. And no one wants to hear that, as a kid. That stuff stays with you, so I said I'm gonna try to help out," said Brown.
And Brown helped out in a big way. He began coaching and soon took over the league, now called the Lansing Cowboys, on which 8 teams of kids ages 7 to 14 play. He found volunteers to coach and organize the teams. He found parents to bring kids without rides to practice. And he found the funds to make sure all the kids who come out for the teams play for free.
Melissa White's son plays on the team, and she says it's about much more than a game.
"It's changed him so much by... you know when you're a young kid you go through so many emotions, and every kid has their own unique ways of handling situations. And he has learned to have much more respect... to speak when spoken to, learning the definition of actual hard work," said Melissa White.
Hard work, respect and achievement off the football field are all important to Brown. There are 15 volunteer coaches who check-in on the kids, even visiting players' schools.
"If the grades ain't right. If school ain't right. Or even family life ain't right. We hear about it, you're not going to play," said Aaron Blankenburg, JV Team Coach.
It's good motivation, because these kids love to play. But Coach Brown says that's not enough. He hopes to get more kids off the coach and onto the field in the coming years.
There are over 100 kids in the Lansing Cowboy's football league, but Brown and the corporate sponsors he has found also pay for about 100 other kids to play on other local teams. He hopes that the team can improve their facilities to make more kids want to come out for the teams, and he also wants to get more corporate sponsors so all kids who want to play football in Lansing can play for free.