The Hemet-San Jacinto Saints are striving to be dominant both on the field and off it. The new football club has five teams for children between the age of five and 14 that focus on both the fundamentals of football and excelling academically. The teams have a two-year structure with the youngest group being five-and-six-year-olds and the oldest 13-and-14-year-olds. Each age division has one team with an average of 20 players. The Saints are a part of the United Youth Football League in the Riverside conference.
"Our goal is to expand next year so that each division has two teams with 25 players," said Saints vice president Abe Flores.Before the children on the Saints’ teams can focus on football, they have to focus on school. Coaches and board members of the organization have implemented a mentor program with student-athletes at local high schools.
"High school athletes use it as a time to earn community service hours and our kids are so impressed with them. They think they are so cool," said Flores. "We aren’t just striving to get these kids a 2.0 grade point average, we think they are capable of a 3.0 or higher." Flores said because of the focus on academics, the football club is really starting to take off with parents. "Parents are in love with the fact that we care more about the entire kid, not just how good they are at football," Flores said. The Saints are also trying to make youth football an affordable venture for families.
"We have underprivileged kids in this valley who cannot afford to go out of town and pay $400 to play on a football team," Flores said. "This team is local and is only $250. Next year we are hoping to lower it to $100 for the whole season." The motivation behind the team is to begin to develop young athletes and students to better the reputation of the high schools in the valley.
"I was thinking about taking my children out of the city to attend high school and I realized that is the problem," Flores said. "Parents with talented children are often inclined to take their child to a school in Temecula or Murrieta. If we would all just keep our kids in the school they belong to and work with them beginning at a young age, our high schools will improve." Flores said by staying in the community now instead of going to a youth team outside of the city, the Saints are already improving the community.
"We have a vision for this community. We want to stick it out in Hemet and motivate these kids to continue in football," Flores said. "Our players will be strong academically and strong athletically and ultimately help the local schools." Flores coaches the seven-and eight-year-old division of the Hemet-San Jacinto Saints who are currently 5-0.
"I have taught them discipline and fundamental football. That is what we are teaching our teams at every level," Flores said. "We are working to get them to the next level, not scare them off from football." Assuring that students return to play the next year is a major goal of the Saints program."If the kids stay in football it will help them stay in school. It is good motivation to be successful," Flores said.
Those interested in signing their child up for the Hemet-San Jacinto Saints can do so at www.hsjsaints.com. "The Saints are all about learning," Flores said. "Our kids are going to get to a level where they are champions on the football field, at school, and in their homes. They are going to be young men."