Although the youth-sports league Horizon West Youth Sports & Cheer is in its inaugural spring season, much like the area it serves, it’s growing — and fast.
Do you have what it takes to be a Wolverine?
That’s the question the organizers of Horizon West Youth Sports & Cheer have for potential youth athletes as they continue to recruit and grow the brand-new sports league.
HORIZON WEST WOLVERINES
HWYSC is the brainchild of local parents, including league president and Horizon West resident Dale Wood, who wanted a youth-sports organization close to home for their children.
Wood has coached Upward Sports at First Baptist Church Windermere for about five years, and he and other parents had children who played previously in other local youth leagues. However, they realized they didn’t have a league that would help feed the Horizon West-area schools.
“We sat down and said, ‘Hey, we need to start a league,’” Wood said. “Then we said, ‘Let’s (be the) Horizon West Wolverines,’ because that’s where we all live. We started in November, and now we have a league running. It’s been a lot of work, but we have things happening. With coaches and everything we have 15 to 17 people working four days a week making things happen. Everybody’s a volunteer; it’s a nonprofit. We all just work for the kids.”
The organization borrows its mascot from Windermere High and aims to help train its youth athletes in the ways of sportsmanship, attitude, teamwork, academic excellence and integrity. After all, many of these kids will one day become Windermere Wolverines themselves.
Most of the volunteers and coaches have children involved in some way, Wood said. HWYSC currently offers flag football and cheerleading but looks to expand its athletic offerings as it grows. Practices for tackle football should begin in July, he said.
“We’re trying to get these (sports) running right first, but we’re definitely looking into doing other sports for the area,” he said. “We start our practices in July for tackle football and mini camps and things like that, and the season will start around the first of August. We’re working on putting a schedule together for that to schedule things out with the school and the use of the stadium.”
Right now, the league, which belongs to the Mid Florida Football and Cheerleading Conference, holds its practices at the field at Lifebridge Church. However, it will head to the Windermere High football practice field Saturday, April 28, for a game. Wood hopes to be able to use the stadium this fall for more games.
FOR THE KIDS
Bridgewater Middle seventh-grader Dalton Walker plays as the quarterback for the senior age division’s flag football team and has been taking in every moment of being part of a startup league.
“It’s fun; I don’t mind having the pressure all on me,” he said. “I wanted to play this year, because I’m very competitive and have a lot for friends on the team.”
“He’s excited about the games coming up,” his mother, Rhonda Walker, said. “When he played flag before, he liked playing that because a lot of people got to be involved in the game and it wasn’t just the select three people (or something). It’s more of a team event. … It’s not as intense in the spring. I think he’s just excited about playing with his friends and getting out and getting exercise.”
And with a new youth sports league in a fast-growing area, the word already is spreading. At this point, Wood said, he had imagined the organization might have 40 athletes. Thus far HWYSC has about 80 — ranging from 4 to 14 years old — registered, with about 30 of them in cheerleading and 50 in flag football.
He’s still receiving calls daily from parents interested in getting their children involved.
Organizers are still recruiting more players and coaches. Additionally, Wood hopes to be able to partner with more corporate sponsors in supporting HWSYC.
“I’ve been coaching for a while, and the best thing is watching the kids enjoy being together,” Wood said. “We’re giving them a good atmosphere and the ability to succeed, but the camaraderie with the kids is what has helped us get so big so fast. The kids are all friends, and that’s been the blessing with everything. They’re in school all day, and then they get to come out and play and have fun on the field together.”