The future of Richmond football looks very bright.
The Richmond Steelers, a youth program that fostered many of the players who now star in the Kennedy High Eagles’ resurgence, have continued their winning ways this season by capturing three regional titles in the Snoop Youth Football League (SYFL).
Steelers teams ages 12-under, 9-10 and 5-6 won NorCal titles and have earned the right to play in the SYFL California Championships at Inderkum High School in Sacramento on Dec. 3 (see flyer below for more info on games).
Steelers teams that win the state title games will advance to Nationals at Rice University in Houston, Tex. Snoop Dogg, who runs and coaches in the league, has pledged to pay the travel expenses for teams earning the trip to Houston, said Will Bryant, Steelers head coach for the 9-10 team.
Snoop Dogg is expected to attend the state championships at Inderkum High.
Bryant said the Steelers, a program serving about 200 youth players on six teams, are elated to send three teams to state title games despite increasingly competitive league play. Last year, the Steelers sent four teams to state. The 12-under team is returning to the state championship game for a third straight year.
The success of the Steelers program can be directly linked to Kennedy High’s strengthened program, which finished this year with a 10-2 record and first league title in 28 years, Bryant said.
“Star high school players from Kennedy, El Cerrito, De Anza and Hercules have played [with the Steelers] since they were 8 years old,” Bryant said.
By joining the SYFL three years ago, the Steelers made a move toward consistency. Unlike other leagues, the SYFL teams are determined by age rather than weight. Instead of being separated by their weight, youth on the Steelers play alongside each other throughout their development, Bryant said.
“Those kids grow up together and then go to high school and play together,” Bryant said.
And similar to Kennedy High, the Steelers program places a strong focus on academics and community. The veteran Steelers coaches form strong bonds with players, Byrant says, as they grew up in Richmond and are now volunteering their time and giving back. That may be the key to the program’s success, according to Bryant.
“It’s like a tradition,” he said. “We’re teaching intensity. We’re teaching what we learned: to do well in school, to listen to our parents. We have an understanding of what these kids go through in the community. By volunteering our time, we make the kids go that much harder for us. ”
And it has led to opportunity for the kids. The 12-Under team has traveled to Florida in the past, and the Steelers program has also been to Los Angeles and other statewide locations for games. In addition, the Steelers have gone on field trips, including to the campuses of Google and Stanford University — sources of inspiration for their futures, Bryant said.