Sports as an incentive

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 8, 2009

This is the 39th year David Baker has worked to bring youth football and cheerleading to downtown Suffolk’s kids through the Inner City Athletic Association.

Through those years, of course wins, tournaments and trophies are worth remembering. Baker brings up one very specific stat from last season, though.

“Last year, at the start of the season, we had 15 kids who were failing on their last report card (from the previous school year). By the time of the first progress report, all of them were making C’s or better. That’s how we know we’re doing the right thing,” said Baker.

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Baker founded the ICAA, known better as the Suffolk Steelers, and opened another season’s practices a week ago. President Fred Greene expects the ICAA to have about 300 kids in cheerleading or football this fall, which is about the same as last year.

Kids must show coaches their grades as the season goes on and, as with high school and college mandates on grades, Steelers must do well in school to stay on the team.

“We’re trying to keep kids, boys and girls, off the street and provide a safe environment for them,” said Greene.

The Steelers work with two churches on East Washington Street to have tutoring for kids. During the school year, kids can stay there and get help with school work until practices in the evening, around 5-6 p.m., at John F. Kennedy Middle School.

On the field, the Steelers have plenty of wins to talk about, too. Last season, the midget division team went undefeated through the regular season, winning the Southeastern Virginia Pop Warner Association championship, before losing in the regional playoffs. The Steeler junior midget and junior pee wee teams went 6-2 in the regular season. All three teams made bowl games in Charlotte, N.C.

“The kids have the opportunity to do something new. It’s new for some of them to go to bowls and go on out-of-town trips,” said Greene.

The main project for the ICAA before the season is fundraising to buy new jerseys.

“We’re trying to keep it as cheap as we can, but still get new jerseys, because the kids feel good with new jerseys,” said Greene.

The Steelers are still accepting late signups said Greene, but the teams are filling up fast. Pop Warner games are held on Saturdays, and the Steelers practice most weeknights at John F. Kennedy Middle School.