Vincent youth football ‘heading up’ safety for players
By DREW GRANTHUM/Sports Editor
VINCENT — When Shawn Martin took over the Vincent Youth Football Association three years ago, he knew the league needed upgrades.
The league was once a strong proving ground for future Vincent Middle High School athletes, capturing a three-peat championship in its heyday. Unfortunately, the league the youth teams played in, the Mid-State League, wasn’t conducive for growth.
“Our numbers kept dropping because we had to play on Saturdays,” Martin said.
Martin also said the teams had to travel long distances to the games, putting a financial strain on the families of players.
When the numbers simply weren’t there to support the league, it went dormant, Martin said.
With the youth football program dwindling to extinction, the effect on the varsity program was imminent. Martin said that as a life-long supporter of Vincent athletics, he didn’t want to see it happen.
Martin resurrected the program in 2011, and set out to join a league that would be friendlier to the families of players, and joined the Talladega Youth Football League. While the wins were hard to come by their first few seasons, new equipment was even harder, Martin said.
“The first year, the helmets were (dated) ’01 and ’02,” he said. “With the state laws, any helmet 10 years and older is deemed unsafe. I just couldn’t see my son going out there in those helmets.”
While Martin encouraged parents of players to go out and purchase a helmet for their players, some simply could not afford them, and the league was in no position financially to buy them, either.
Finally, after calls were placed and connections were made, Window World in Huntsville agreed to help out the Jackets, donating $2,320 for the needed equipment. In return, the business got a banner that will hang at every Vincent youth football game. Martin also said the city of Harpersville assisted as well.
“It got us 40 brand new helmets with chinstraps,” Martin said. “The kids, once I showed them the helmets, (got excited).”
Martin said he felt the new equipment not only helped youth sports, but could help boost pride in the town as a whole.
“If you don’t have a youth program, your JV and varsity (is) going to struggle,” he said. “I graduated from Vincent, my three boys go here. I can’t sit back and watch that.”