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New Youth Football League to Take Faith Based Approach

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New Youth Football League to Take Faith Based Approach

A new youth football league set to kick off in August is taking a faith-based approach to the sport.

The Siouxland Youth Football League (SYFL), founded by longtime coaches Jeff Adler and Kelly Meeker, will feature 10 to 12 teams for fifth- and sixth-grade boys. The new league will emphasize Christian ministry among its coaches and players, working closely alongside the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA).

“It’s going to be a faith-based program,” said Adler, who along with Meeker founded the Air Attack Academy based out of Sioux Falls. “The culture is broken in sports, where parents are yelling at their third-, fourth- or fifth-grade coaches about kids’ playing time or how a game’s called. We’re trying to get back to the roots of the game — about learning fundamentals and growing as a person.”

The SYFL’s inaugural season is expected to include about 250 players, and Adler is encouraged by the 75 registrations so far. Adler said the registered players represent a mix in terms of experience — some already have played full-contact with South Dakota Junior Football, some have played flag football with FCA, and others will try the sport out for the first time.

Adler said the new league isn’t marketing itself as a competitor to South Dakota Junior Football, an voluneer-operated league since its founding in 1969. Last year, 2,515 athletes participated in junior football (which spans second through eighth grade). The SYFL, meanwhile, will try to entice 250 participants in its first go-round.

“We’re not trying to compete with anybody, though obviously it looks that way,” Adler said. “But like anything else — whether its a car dealership or restaurant — competition makes you better. And unfortunately we may draw some kids away from junior football, but our main goal is to provide a fun environment.”

Two areas the SYFL plans to stand out in — beyond their faith-based approach — are uniforms and venue. USF’s Bob Young Field will play host to every regular season game in the new league, giving its 10- to 12-year-old players a college game day experience.

The SYFL has also looked to colleges such as Oregon — a program known as much for its popular jerseys and apparel as it is for football — for cues on style. Jerseys in the SYFL have been modeled after popular college variants, in an attempt to garner interest in a landscape where South Dakota Junior Football has had plenty of cachet over the years.

Beyond the pomp and flash of new jerseys and a college stadium for a home venue, Adler says the SYFL is really about responding to a growing need for Christian-based sports.

Adler said he and Meeker “sat on the idea” for a league like the SYFL for five or six years, but started to put ideas in motion after growing interest.

“Will we have enough kids? Is there a need? Those questions kept coming up,” Adler said. “We started to address those questions with the FCA, and we started getting serious questions from parents. They want another option.”

With the SYFL, prayer and religious instruction will play a part in the day-to-day, but there also will be an emphasis on player safety. To that end, all SYFL coaches — like in South Dakota Junior Football — must be trained and certified in USA Football’s Heads Up program.

“Our tagline is: Protect the head, protect the heart,” Adler said. “We’re trying to make it safe, trying to make it a faith-based league. We want to help change the culture of sports and give kids a fun, safe, positive environment.”

Registration for the Siouxland Youth Football League is open, with a $249.99 price tag. Registration will include six regular season games and the potential for nine with the playoffs. The top South Dakota team will then play in a border battle with an Iowa team for the championship. Two instructional football camps — with the Air Attack Academy — also are included with registration.

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argusleader.com

David Nicholson,

dnicholson@argusleader.com