Recruitment started in June, and by July the kids were already learning the fundamentals of the game. Practices were held at Cornell Square Park and the Buccaneers were ready to play, even without funding to pay for official team uniforms.
Through the Land of Lincoln Football League, the Buccaneers’ new league, and other comrades in their football network, the team received donated equipment. ”The thing with youth football is that everyone helps everyone. Little things like [practice pants] and other things are a lot [of help] for a beginner team like us,” said Martinez.
When the season kicked off, the players sported mismatched uniforms, but they didn’t let that affect their game. “When people would see the kids they’d be like, “look at these kids.” But the jerseys didn’t define us, the way we played, the way the kids played them, it didn’t even matter– give them any shirt [and] they’re going to play hard and do what they have to do,” said Martinez.
The day they finally received their official team jerseys coach Tony brought out the box and remembers the kids were eager to see the jerseys. “When I showed it to them these kids were going nuts. To me, that was something special because I didn’t get help from anyone to get the jerseys so for me
to get them and see their big smiles–that same day we had to cut practice early cus everybody wanted to take [a] picture with their jerseys,” said Martinez.
It was at that moment that they could be known as the Buccaneers. After receiving the jerseys, they were able to concentrate on other needs. “We can concentrate now on getting helmets,” said coach Big Dawg.
Being able to see the pride on the kids’ faces of the jerseys and proving people wrong about the park’s safety was a big highlight for the Buccaneer coaches. “We hung the course and I’m proud of us,” said Shackelford.
With the willingness to make a change and a lot of dedication, what Coach Tony and Coach Big Dawg did, comes nothing short of what all the community-driven success stories coming out of Back of the Yards have done this past year.
The team consists of 4 tier age groups. And altogether the Buccaneers are 88 kids strong.
The key to having had a successful beginning team are many things but most importantly Coach Big Dawg said, “Once they believe what you’re telling them will work and they see, then they’ll run through a wall for you.”
Congratulations to the Buccaneers 2017 the Land of Lincoln Football League Champions!