Youth football seeks support from community

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Madisonville Youth Football and Cheer is under new leadership this season with a fresh set of board members who are working to ensure that every kid who wishes to play will have the opportunity to do so with financial help from the community.

The organization used to operate under the Pop Warner Association, but has been a part of Heart of Texas Football for the last five years. Heart of Texas Football was created in 1990 and caters to smaller communities. They are currently located in Madisonville, Trinity, Crockett, Palestine, Leon County, Fairfield, Teague, Mexia, Grosebeck, Corsicana, Franklin and Marlin.

The programs available include age groups below seventh grade, when football is typically offered through school. Children from ages five to seven compete in the Bantam league while eight and nine year olds make up Juniors and ten to twelve year olds are the seniors. In Madisonville, there is currently just one cheer squad, but it would be divided accordingly if enough girls join.

Since previous board members moved on when their children aged out of the league, the program is under new leadership with the exception of former President Lee Juarez, who has assumed the role of mentor to ease the transition. The new President is Ruben Garza with Bobby Lechinger as Vice President, D’Anna Garza as Treasurer, Kathryn Lechinger as Secretary and Jennifer Johnson as Board Officer.

“We are trying to keep the kids involved and all of us who are out there are volunteers,” said Bobby Lechinger. “We board members are volunteers and we have some great coaches who dedicate their time and we are all in it for the same reason. We are here to try and keep the kids motivated.”

The Lechingers, who have an eight year old son in the league, stepped in to fill two open board positions after spending 2017 as volunteer parents. They have spent the majority of their time organizing the equipment they have at their disposal and working to make the most of it.

“All of our guidelines come from Heart of Texas, and there is a standard for the equipment we can use,” said Kathryn Lechinger. “Right now, we are basically starting over. We are in need of new helmets, new pads and field equipment. That is just where we are.”

Equipment is not the only reason to make a donation to Madisonville Youth Football and Cheer. Funds from the community can also be used to sponsor young boys and girls who would not be able to afford the one hundred signup fee.

“We are never going to turn a child away,” said Kathryn Lechinger. “If I have to pay for my child as well as three others to get out there, that is what I am going to try and do. That is why we are reaching out to the community and asking for help.”

One is not limited to monetary donations. The league has reached out to local businesses to help in any way they ca, whether that be equipment or items for the concession stand on game day. The Lechingers estimate they will have to raise about six thousand more dollars, but the goal is not only to stay afloat this season but to thrive in the future as well.

“So many players and cheerleaders we see on Friday nights used to be members of this league,” said Kathryn Lechinger. “We think it would be so cool if there could be a league scholarship, even if it is just a thousand dollars, and present it to the athlete on senior night.”

The Lechingers are both employed by MCISD and have worked with Superintendent Keith Smith and Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Rusty Nail to ensure access to necessary facilities.

“These are their future players coming in,” said Bobby Lechinger. “So if they can help the kids improve their game at a young age, it is certainly a win for everybody involved.”

“We are very grateful to have the school district and administration that we have here,” said Kathryn Lechinger. “(Coach Nail) has already done so much for our high school program and has really been a huge help to us with scheduling.”

Practices began last week with basic conditioning and will continue this week with pads. The action is closely monitored throughout by board members who make sure the kids are getting the proper water breaks and shade time required by Heart of Texas, keeping safety the top priority while combatting the brutal, late summer conditions and watching how individual players may be affected differently. The board is extremely hands-on, attending every single practice and game.

The signup deadline to join the league as a football player or cheerleader is August 17 and the official schedule will be released on August 26. The first game of the season is set to take place on Saturday, September 8. Bantam games will start at 8:30 a.m. and are to be followed by Juniors and Seniors.

Most of the one hundred dollar sign up fee will cover the jerseys and pants. All donations stay within Madisonville Youth Football and Cheer and will not be used for programs in other towns where Heart of Texas is present. The league is also planning to sell Mustang Football shirts with spaces for sponsors on the back. To inquiry about a donation or sign up an athlete, contact any of the board members listed above or visit the Madisonville Youth Football and Cheer page on Facebook. To view the rules and policies of the league, visit heartoftexasfootball.com.

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