The Spring Hill Youth Football League is a non-profit organization that focuses on coaching children in youth tackle football and competitive cheerleading. Led by Coach Steve Farrell and other volunteer staffers, the league practices at Veterans Park in Spring Hill. Their season starts around the middle of June and can run as late as November. Operating with their five age brackets of 6U, 8U, 10U, 12U, and 14U allows the coaches to teach children in ranges that will be conducive for their growth.
While the league has been around for over 25 years, it is currently in its second year under the leadership of Coach Farrell and his wife. Despite the short time frame, they have already won their first championship with their 10-year-old team winning the state championship for spring league football.
When the previous owners of what was then known as The Spring Hill Athletic Association approached Coach Farrell about handing over the reins and expanding, he jumped at the opportunity. Having been in corrections since 2011, he understands just how critical programs like these are for the community. “When we got into Hernando County, we realized that there’s not a lot in Hernando County for the youth to do,” said Farrell. “I’ve had almost 11 years in corrections working in the local county jail and unfortunately, I’ve watched the age of the children get younger and younger and younger that get arrested. The more time we talk to the juveniles, the more times we find they just didn’t have anything to do. So that seems like it’s a common problem. So as a community, we need to give these kids something to do. We need to give them an opportunity to be great.”
That is where the expansion comes in, as it not only applies to the league fielding newly traveling teams, but to incorporating more facilities as well. Veterans Park is no longer the only location they operate out of. Coach Farrell and company were able to secure an indoor training facility, dubbed Endzone Athletics, for the organization in December. Following a brief period in which the staff allowed the football team to use the building exclusively, the location was opened in earnest starting in May.
Now open to the general public, the staff admits children ages 5 to 13 to join their program. It is more than just conditioning, though. Due to the league’s status as a non-profit, the coaches are able to offer high school age students volunteer hours through the tutoring of younger children. Coach Farrell feels these opportunities are important for children, as it gives them an avenue for gaining scholarships to go to college. Since many parents in Hernando County cannot afford to send their children to a university, Coach Farrell feels this program is a necessity.
“And If we can’t put them in college,” Coach Farrell added, “then we at least give them a good set of core values to be an adult to make good, solid decisions when they’re getting older. Realize that if they want something, they got to go put in the work.”
The league’s amenities do not stop there, as they also allow parents to drop their children off with the coaches if the kids are bored or if the parents are busy. Once there, the kids are free to work out, hang out with friends, or even play video games. The staff truly wants Endzone Athletics to be a center for the community to come together and enjoy themselves.
The coaches have seen tremendous growth in demand since they have started. Two years ago, the staff had a difficult time filling out even two or three age divisions, but they now comfortably field four teams. Coach Farrell also noted how it is not just the kids that have the desire, but it is the parents that are wanting to help out as well.
“Working and watching the group of families come together and be willing to do so much for these kids just lets you know that you live in a good community,” said Farrell. The coaches also have a “pie in the sky” goal of one day securing a 10-acre plot of land. This would allow them to open an indoor training facility that is large enough to conduct training, wrestling, indoor flag football, and competitive cheerleading. Ideally, the land would be large enough for an outdoor field as well.
“The end of the day, if we can get a kid to college or keep the kid out of jail, we’ve basically done what we’re supposed to do,”