Sports have the power to develop young athletes into young men, but sometimes the financial cost of playing in an organized league is simply too much.
But for young athletes in Gainesville, several programs provide them the opportunity to play sports at a reasonable price.
The City of Gainesville’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs (PRCA) applied for a $1,000 grant from the USA Football Equipment Grant program. It’s money that, if awarded, will be used to purchase new equipment and re-condition old helmets, according to Shannon Keleher, City of Gainesville recreation manager.
Players in the city’s Pop Warner youth football league pay a registration fee as low as $86 if they register on time and are residents of Gainesville. If they register after the deadline or don’t live in the city, they can pay up to $143.50. This fee covers a new jersey, a helmet and shoulder pads, all provided by the league.
Keleher said she doesn’t know when the grant will be awarded, but even if the PRCA does not receive the money, players will still be provided with the proper equipment.
“We apply for grants all the time,” Keleher said. “If we don’t get the funding for it, (the money) comes out of our operating budget.”
Keleher said the city’s Pop Warner football program, whose season begins in August, is very popular and one of the least expensive options in Gainesville because the program is subsidized.
Parents can spend thousands of dollars a year on their child’s sports leagues, as illustrated in an article by “The Conversation,” but people like Vernell Brown Jr. are working to keep prices low.
Brown is a former University of Florida football player and has since established Elite Athletic Performance Group Inc. in Gainesville, a non-profit organization that prepares high school athletes for collegiate sports, including football, according to it’s Facebook page. He is also the founder and vice-president of the Gainesville Panthers, EAP’s youth football program. Panthers players must pay a $200 registration fee that covers a jersey, pants, socks, practice uniforms, league fees, equipment rental and end of season trophies.
Brown said he gets players from all around Gainesville and called the program a premiere organization for developing young athletes and young men.