By Hector Gonzalez
From as far north as of Orlando — to as far south as Homestead–youth football teams traveled to the City of Miramar with one purpose : to be named “ Best-of-the-Best.”
In it’s first ever, the Miami Dolphins held the inaugural -Youth Football Bowl Championship Series–where Super Bowl champions from different leagues, faced-off versus each other.
Presented by Generation Next, and Under Armour, an all-day– two-weekend event at the Miramar Ansin Sports Complex, the idea behind it wasn’t only to play a game involving running, throwing, and tackling a pigskin, it involved more than that : community, competition, and sportsmanship.
The idea of making an event for kids, to compete at a big-stage, and display their skills in front of their community, parents, and coaches is not often seen in the wide-world of sports.
“ We understand the Miami Dolphins is the biggest football organization in South Florida, and partnering with them, only good things can come out,” Generation Nexxt co-founder Jonah Woullard said, “ They share our vision, of investing into youth football, and know that this is going to grow.”
Of those leagues participating were Xtreme; American Youth Football League; South Florida Youth Football League ; Pop Warner; Mid Florida football and National Youth Football League.
The concept of super bowl champs playing one another came from Generation Nexxt the #1 youth sports network in the country –according to co-founder Benton Aladin— that airs every Sunday morning on NBC, with the Dolphins Academy sharing the vision, and fully backing the event, it has fully come to fruition.
Director of youth & community programs for Dolphins Academy Twan Russell –who played seven-years in the National Football Association 1997-to-2003– three of them as a linebacker for the Dolphins, said it was about giving kids opportunity to play at a safe location, where positive people could serve as role models.
“ We got the first one off, everyone [ coaches, kids] have been excited about it, and that’s what it’s about,” Russell said, “ South Florida is one of the top producers of youth football talent and this is a signature event is where young athlete’s can showcase those talents.”
General Admission was $10 at the 5,000-seating capacity stadium with state-of-the art track, and a recreational center.
City of Miramar’s Site Supervisor for the complex, Shontee Rasool said the event was not for profit, but rather a chance to provide a service to the kids.
Teams were given professional-like experiences, with photographers taking game-time photos, live halftime interviews by Generation Nexxt, and post-game trophy presentations for the winning team, and runner-up trophies for the other to-go-with green-and-gold medallions.
Each team had the chance to run out of an air-filled green bubble like Dolphins tunnel, and onto the field, before they met at the 50-yard line for handshakes.
Greater Miami South Florida Pop-Warner’s Mark Peterson who in their league have over 100-teams, and 19 parks said they wanted to give their youth another chance to play another football game.
“ Despite it being all different leagues, everyone is still playing football,and having a good time which is the important thing,” Peterson said.
Super Bowl Champions Florida City Razorback’s 85lbs defensive coordinator Pete Taylor whose son #21 Gabriel Taylor plays safety on the team said it was all about playing a game, teaching respect, and discipline.
“ Because we don’t travel outside, our kids had a chance to see different competition, talent, and skills,” Pete Taylor said.
Russell said the Dolphins Academy are heavily involved in the community with over 200-events, 100-plus schools visited, and over two-hundred kids served throughout the course of the year.
And with the NFL encouraging the fight against obsesity, former & current Dolphins players have extended their hands to help the movement.
Familiar names like: Troy Drayton; Sean Hill; Oronde Gadsden; James Pruitt; Davone Bess; Brandon Marshall; Brian Hartline, and Karlos Dansby are all participants of the academy.
Ondina Coviella mother of 12-year -old offensive lineman Diego Coviella for the Super Champions Kendall Hammocks Warrior’s 135lbs said their team practice with intensity, and that the event added another goal for the kids.
“ They respect very much to meet another team, I encourage them to do this again, “ Coviella said, “ This keeps them busy with school, practice, and homework.”
Miami Dolphins special teams volunteer 17-year-old Catherina Demosthene agrees.
“ Pretty much, youth need motivation, and someone to look up to,” Demosthene said, “ It keeps them busy,away from all the gangs, and negative stuff.”
The event also featured students from Florida International University, and Nova Southeastern University –playing their part by assisting the youth football game as athletic trainers –under the guidance of Sports Medicine Specialist Manish Gupta, and Spine Specialist Ashish Sahai.
Thankfully none of the young players on any team suffered any serious injury.
Dr. Gupta praised Generation Nexxt & the Dolphins for reaching out to the communities.
“ Really as a physician & youth sports doctor that’s been our goal as well, how do you connect with the community,” Gupta said “ Teach them, if your a winner on the field, your are going to be a winner in life.”
From the many young teams that came out, to their families, and coaching staff : Generation Nexxt Aladin said they were glad this event was a success for the young athletes, to motivate them, and provide the youth the same recognition as a professional athlete’s receives– because at the end –they are the future all-stars.
“ Just because you are little, doesn’t mean you can’t get the big stage,” Aladin said.