The Sparks Junior Pee Wee Wolf Pack football team, consisting of 30 9- to 11-year-olds, will have an opportunity to participate in a championship most young athletes never receive. The team has made it to the national finals with a shot at winning the Pop Warner Superbowl in Orlando and is making a strong fundraising push to travel for a week-long stay in Florida.
“These are not the most privileged kids,” said Mary Munsterman, Tyler’s mother and the team’s manager. “There’s a lot of diversity here.”
With 29 boys, one girl and eight coaches, the spirited team has worked hard to make it this far. During the season, which begins in July, they practice three nights a week with Friday or Saturday games.
“They’re the pride of the Sierras,” Munsterman said.
The kids earned their shot by defeating the Vacaville Bengals by 36-14 in Santa Clara on Saturday, making them the Sagebrush champions. The Wolf Pack team is undefeated.
Each child loves the sport because of its physical nature.
Treci Blanton, the running back, halfback, and cornerback, has an assertive streak in him.
“I like dominating,” he said.
For Dylan Warkentin, an offensive and defensive lineman, it’s all about “running and hitting.”
At the heart of what they do, though, is a solid grounding in their academics. Their coach, Paul Bright, requires them to do their homework or else they don’t get to go to practice.
“There are 10 kids on the team that are straight-A students,” she said. “They do volunteer work.”
Some also play multiple sports such as baseball or wrestling, which can help with their football skills.
The youth football team works hard in any weather and have a strong sense of discipline, Munsterman said.
Blanton already knows how much good it’s doing for him. He’s been with the junior team since he was 4.
“My dad wanted me to be in sports instead of being out on the streets and at home watching television, so I decided to play (football),” Blanton said.
The parents, who are working tirelessly to help raise the money to send their kids, live as cheerleaders and role 24 hours a day, seven days a week in and out of football season to support the players and sit out in the cold Nevada weather, facing wind, rain and snow. Their diet changes a lot as well, Munsterman said.
“We have a lot of fast food,” she chuckled.
But she’s also proud of how fit they are as 9-, 10- and 11-year-olds.
“They’re much more in shape than we are,” she said with a laugh.
As they prepare to leave on Friday, the biggest obstacle for the kids to tackle right now is getting enough money to go to Florida, where they would stay at the Disneyworld hotel as required by the competition. The cost is $1,500 per child, including airfare and accommodations, and the parents don’t want to leave a single child out of the game. Munsterman said she hopes the team can get at least $50,000 to pay for the kids. It would cost about $80,000 to pay for all the coaches and parent chaperones.
With Christmas fast approaching and tight finances for everyone, it’s a difficult time to raise that much money, but Mary Munsterman said she and the other parents see it as a rare opportunity for the team that they don’t want to deny.
But everyone is collaborating and they all consider each other family, said Koreena Warkentin, the mother of two players, Ty, 11 and Dylan, 9.
“We work well together and have a good camaraderie,” Warkentin said. “They call to take kids to practice if a parent can’t make it.”
In Florida, the Wolf Pack team would get to play at least two games and possibly in the finals for the Superbowl title if they advance that far. It’s a substantial Christmas gift if they can go, as some of the parents are taking out personal loans to help with the costs, Munsterman said. But to see their children make it to the top, it’s worth it, Munsterman said.
“It’s celebrating an accomplishment,” Munsterman said.
For more information or to make a contribution, contact Paul Bright at 772-9099. Donations can also be made at any Wells Fargo bank to the Pop Warner Wolf Pack Florida Trip fund, account number 1277848618.