Youth Football and Cheer

The Elk Grove Jr. Thundering Herd football and cheer program is one of the youth sports organizations not able to play games nor practice on Elk Grove Unified School District grounds and facilities. Here one of the Jr. Herd teams is playing at River Valley H.S. in Yuba City earlier this season. 

Talk to most high school varsity football coaches and they’ll tell you how invaluable a youth program starting as young as age six through middle school is to their programs. After a pandemic-filled year-and-a-half, along with missing entirely the 2020 season, these youth programs, especially the ones based in Elk Grove, are struggling to remain active.

Most of the reason, according to those such as Alex Amaro of the Monterey Trail Junior Mustangs and Doug Remedios of the Elk Grove Junior Thundering Herd, is that they cannot host home games this fall. That’s because these two programs have over the years used their namesake high school football facility to play games. Those home games are the big money makers for these organizations.

But, this fall the Elk Grove Unified School District won’t allow either organization to use their fields for games nor practices. Blame it on COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, they say.

“We never got a clear understanding on why we cannot use our facilities,” Amaro told the District’s Board of Trustees Tuesday during a public comment section of their meeting.

He also claimed that Elk Grove Unified is the only school district amongst the programs who play in the Sacramento Youth Football League not allowing youth sports on their properties.

For Remedios, the extra expense comes with finding a park where his teams could practice several nights each week.

 “We typically would practice on the field at Kerr (Middle School) and pay 75 cents an hour,” he said. “Now, practicing at Elk Grove Park costs $28 an hour.

Plus having to play an eight-game schedule, all on the road, means a big hit to his organization’s coffers, too.

“We get revenue from the gate, we get revenue from the snack bar,” Remedios said. “So, all that revenue no longer exists for us. Not only are our costs higher, but our revenue is eliminated completely.”

On Monday youth football and cheer players and coaches protested outside the Trigg Building, the District headquarters, hoping to get the Board of Trustees to move the needle. Even if they did address the issue, Remedios says it’s likely not going to help any of the youth football programs this fall.

“The (game) schedules have already been set,” he said. “The only possibility of hosting would be if we make the playoffs.”

At the end of Tuesday’s Board meeting trustees voted to discuss this policy at its next meeting on Oct. 5.

Franklin’s Junior Wildcats program and Bradshaw Christian’s Junior Pride also play in the SYF organization with Elk Grove and Monterey Trail. Bradshaw’s program uses a field on the campus of the private school. The Junior Wildcats were able to obtain use the football field of neighboring Bartholomew Sports Park for its home games.