The Valdosta Daily Times
Football is as much a part of the culture of South Georgia as sweet tea, so it is only natural that children would be chomping at the bit to suit up and play the game like the guys they look up to on Friday nights.
Pop Warner football has made its way to Valdosta.
On Saturday afternoon, parents and children gathered at Goddard Field at Valwood School to watch The TitleTown Titans take on the visiting Colquitt Hawgs.
The Pop Warner football league has been around since it was founded by Joseph J. Tomlin in 1929 as a four-team conference in Northeast Philadelphia.
Since then, participation has steadily increased and now more than 250,000 youths participate in Pop Warner-sanctioned football programs.
James Gatlin is the man that brought Pop Warner to Valdosta.
“Crews, out of Albany, Ga., contacted me and we did some research,” said Gatlin. “We looked into it and saw that 75 percent of NFL players come out of Pop Warner league, so we wanted to join in.”
Children can begin playing Pop Warner football as young as 5 years old and continue up until they reach 12. Players are then grouped into one of four leagues by an age and weight matrix.
The 5, 6, and 7-year-olds between 35-75 pounds play in the Tiny Mite division while the 7, 8, and 9-year-olds between 45-90 pounds play in the Mighty Mite division.
The Junior Pee-Wee league is made up of players ages 8, 9, and 10 that weigh between 60-105 pounds. The oldest division in Valdosta play in the Pee-Wee league at the ages of 10, 11, and 12 and 90-145 pounds.
All four divisions played on Saturday, each of them facing their Colquitt Hawgs counterparts.
The Tiny Mites were the first to play. The game was a lot of fun and a learning experience for both teams, but Pop Warner does not keep score of Tiny Mite games. Teams use the games as a chance to teach the children the game of football.
Pop Warner exists to use football as well as a respect for education to develop strong, smart, responsible, healthy children. Tiny Mites especially use the experience to build an appreciation for and understanding of leadership, teamwork, and discipline.
In the Mighty Mites game, the Titans were able to pull out a victory over the Hawgs 14-0. The Hawgs responded by winning the Junior Pee-Wee division game by a score of 12-0.
Pop Warner doesn’t track individual stats in their games, instead choosing to recognize the athletic accomplishments of the team, not the individual.