Timing right to pass the torch… Jr. Cyclone Football and Cheer Club given reins by Boys and Girls Club

Published 11:42 pm Thursday, June 3, 2021

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR SPORTS EDITOR
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com
When it was recently announced that youth football and cheer was going to be going under the Jr. Cyclone Football and Cheer Club, there might have been some misunderstanding as to why the Elizabethton / Carter County Boys and Girls Club wasn’t going to be running the program.

However, recently Boys and Girls Club Athletic Director Rik Anderson and Cyclone head football coach Shawn Witten took time to talk a little about why the torch is being transferred and it has more to do with the direction that the National Boys and Girls Club is wanting to go.

“All the teams under the WJAL which is the Watauga Junior Athletic League for football have their own youth club – it is not run through the Boys and Girls Club,” Witten shared. “The Elizabethton/Carter County Boys and Girls Club is not playing the Johnson City Boys and Girls Club or Greeneville Boys and Girls Club.

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“With that, the Boys and Girls Club when they joined the WJAL league they followed the WJAL rules. The Boys and Girls Club doesn’t mandate the rules and how it’s played.”

Anderson spoke about how the Boys and Girls Club of America is realigning itself in regard to athletics.

“No other Boys and Girls Club has football,” Anderson stated. “Everybody has their own club like the Jr. Toppers, the Jr. Vikings – it’s more like a school-type youth club program that feeds their respective school.

“The BGA – the Boys and Girls Club of America their direction is that they want athletics through the Boys and Girls Club controlled by the Boys and Girls Club.

“They want quality control and whereas we were in that league, we couldn’t control what went on for our kids. That’s the direction across America is that they want Boys and Girls Clubs to get into that.”

Why is this decision being made now many may ask?

The answer is simple in the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic completely wiped out youth football last season and looking through a crystal ball it’s looking like that the Coronavirus is gradually getting fully under control as things begin to show signs of normalcy heading into the upcoming school year making the timing perfect.

“With us not playing last year, it was the best opportunity to do that,” added Anderson. “We weren’t just going to say to anybody, “Here take it,”. That wasn’t it. We were lucky enough to get these two (Shawn and Ryan Witten) involved in it and it was a no-brainer for us.

“It was let them because we know how well it’s going to be run and how well kids are going to learn and they are going to learn the right stuff and the right way.

“So, it was a blessing for us that we had somebody like them that was willing to step in and do it. We felt like it was the perfect time for that to happen.”

And even though the Jr. Cyclone Club is taking over, the Boys and Girls Club will still be working behind the picture to help to get the league up and running as far as consulting the new club about how they did things as well helping with equipment needs.

“The Boys and Girls Club is donating all their equipment to us and allow us to use it. We are still kind of fallen under the same guidelines as the Boys and Girls Club the way they ran it – it’s just going to be a club,” commented Witten.

“It’s great that we are able to work together. They are going to be there to support us, guide us, and direct us as far as the way signups are done, the way to register for cheerleading to kind of get everything on board.

“They have been great on that. Rik had met with myself and Ryan along with Brandon Blevins who has been as involved in youth football as anybody,” Witten continued. “We can’t start up from scratch so we are getting equipment along with a lot of things like the registration forms, the insurance that you have to do, reconditioning of the helmets, and stuff like that.

“It’s under a different program but it’s the same way it’s going to be run.”

Anderson was thankful for everyone who had stepped up over the past 10 years to help make sure that youth football for the Cyclones could be played and that cheerleaders could participate in supporting their teams.

But he feels the best is yet to come for the boys and girls that will be a part of the Jr. Cyclones Football and Cheer Club.

“We were fortunate enough that we had some great coaches come through there and they did some great things for our kids and we have seen some of our kids go on to middle school and high school and be successful,” Anderson said.

“We were glad for that. Now, my feeling is that they are going to get even better. They are going to be able to go to that next level in what we couldn’t provide for them, these guys are going to provide for them. I think the Jr. Cyclone program is ready to take off to another level.

“Anything they need from us, they know they just need to ask.”

Witten was also very appreciative of the job the Boys and Girls Club has done in working with the boys and girls that have entered into Cyclone Nation having witnessed firsthand how the program was run by Anderson and his coaches.

“In my 14 years, our Cyclone football teams at the Boys and Girls Club have been competing for championships and have been competing at the highest level. We have had great numbers and a great turnout,” Witten stated.

“I have been involved for the last three years kind of firsthand and know. We have had their blessing, Rik’s blessing and Matt Lewis’s blessing who is a board member and has been there to support us along the way.

“We appreciate the hard work and where they have gotten it to. We understand the Boys and Girls Club and where they are at.”

Anderson said that the club and the Witten Huddle will still be working in partnership with Flag Football which is not covered under WJAL.

Signups for the Jr. Cyclone Football and Cheer Youth Club are currently underway every weekend during June at the following times:
– June 5th, 5 pm to 7 pm
– June 12th, 10 am to 12 pm
– June 19th, 10 am to 12 pm
– June 26th, 10 am to 12 pm

All signups will be at Citizens Bank Stadium.

The age groups are as follows:
Flag Football – 5/6 years old
Mighty Mights – 5/6 years old
Grasscutters – 7/8 years old
Jr. Pee Wee – 9/10 years old

Signup fees are $60 for the first child and $50 for each additional child.

Anderson added that the club will still have information for signups and registration online at the Boys and Girls Club website.

And while the Boys and Girls Club is stepping away from football, Anderson shared news about the ESA and Boys and Girls Club merging for the fall soccer season.

“We are going to take over ESA so we are going to do soccer in the fall. It will be under our control. The people from ESA are going to be our consultants. Signups will be coming up soon so they will just need to check our website,” Anderson said.