NESHOBA COUNTY, Miss. Neshoba County Youth Football is hosting a 10th Anniversary Kickoff Classic on Saturday to celebrate the program’s 10th season under the Area Wide Youth Football Association Elite (AWYFAE). Greg Fulton, who serves as CEO of Neshoba County Youth and commissioner of AWYFAE, shared more about what makes their youth league unique.
“We have no coaches on the field for 11 and 12-year-olds. They sit in the press box,” Fulton said. “We promote the kicking game off kickoffs, punting, field goals…this helps prepare kids for what they will face in middle school and high school.”
AWYFAE houses six youth teams that include Neshoba County, Union, Lake, Winston County, Leake County and Sebastopol . The league has three different ages groups with 4, 5 and 6-year-olds playing Tinymites, 7 and 8-year-olds in the Rookie division and 9 and 10-year-olds playing Midget.
For Saturday’s Kickoff Classic, Neshoba County Youth will be playing against Southeast Lauderdale’s youth football team that play under the Central Mississippi Youth Athletics league. Fulton approached Southeast Lauderdale’s youth commissioner Mike Lafrance in July about playing against each other.
While both coaches are excited their teams get to face new competition, they emphasized Saturday’s event is about more than what happens on the field.
“We wanted to get the message out that this isn’t necessarily just two teams from different leagues playing football,” Lafrance said. “There’s a greater message in us coming together. We want to show that it doesn’t matter where you play football at or what city you live in…you can still come together for a greater cause and be one.”
Lafrance believes him and Fulton share similar goals of how they want to run their youth teams.
“I think the way we structure our programs are very similar,” Lafrance said “Our focus is mainly on the education of the kids. We don’t necessarily focus on wins and losses. We want to teach them the game of football.”
Saturday’s Kickoff Classic will feature Neshoba County and Southeast Lauderdale’s Pee Wee, Rookie and Midget divisions competing against one another. The event is being held at Neshoba Central High School if weather permits. If conditions are not suitable, the event will move to Northside Park in Philadelphia.
Fulton and Lafrance emphasized that their focus is on the development of the youth. They want to help kids become better athletes while teaching them life values that will positively influence them in the future.
“It’s not about being in the limelight…it’s about seeing kids excel,” Fulton said. “I want to be able to see one of our kids in the future playing a sport or participating in the band and know that when they went through our program, we had a positive influence on them.”
For more information on Neshoba County Youth football, you can visit their website www.neshobacountyyouthfootball.com.