A North Fort Myers youth football program that is trying to compete with the local Pop Warner program has gotten off to such a great start that the team's president is even surprised.
The North Fort Myers Cowboys have already signed up nearly 70 kids between the ages of 5 and 14 for their football and cheer programs, and with four more opportunities to register before the spring season opens in March, that number could go up significantly.
The team will participate in the American Youth Football (AYF) program, a national program that has become larger than Pop Warner in participation, said team president Ryan Williams, thanks to fewer regulations.
"AYF is a laid-back program. They let you handle thigs within the conference or region. They like to be all-inclusive and non-intrusive," Williams said. "It's less expensive. You can get insurance from anybody as opposed to Pop Warner, where you're limited."
Williams said this keeps registration fees low and still provide the safer equipment and eventually offer more to the area's youth and community.
And the parents have bought in, with two sign-ups in December bringing in 70 kids, a number that went way beyond even Williams' expectations.
"Our goal was to get a few kids signed up to take advantage of the equipment reps end-of-year sales because nobody has money this time of year," Williams said. "That we have 70 is crazy. We're hoping to have 150 to 200 signed up for the fall season."
While Williams doesn't expect those numbers in the fall, he expects to field five teams for spring, even though it's difficult because leagues charge different registration fees.
The registration fee is $225 for both the spring and fall seasons, and you can save a spot for $100.
The program has already placed their uniform orders and bought equipment, including 60 modern helmets and other pads.
The team's board of directors is comprised of 13 members, all of whom have youth football experience.
Registration dates will be Jan. 14 and 28 and Feb. 11 and 25, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the North Fort Myers Recreation Center, Room 103, at 2000 N. Recreation Way, off Business 41.
The six- to eight-week spring season begins in March, and will feature three games for each of their five ages classes, U6, U8, U10, U12, and U14. There are no boundaries and no weight limits in any age group.
There will be an eight-game regular season, with a regional tournament two weeks before Thanksgiving, which allows the season to start later, Williams said.
North will have four homes games, a fifth it will share with Dunbar at their field at the North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts, and the other three in the road.
For more information, go to the team's Facebook page.