Almost 5,000 Centreville-area residents attended a day-long Southwestern Youth Association (SYA) preseason youth football tournament at E.C. Lawrence Park on Saturday that was both a tune-up for the upcoming season and a celebration of youth sports.
The 11th Annual Glory Days Grill Bowl featured about two dozen games with teams from both SYA and the Braddock Road Youth Club Football in Fairfax, said Michael A. Johnson, of Centreville, a SYA football coach. The two groups are part of the Fairfax County Youth Football League.
The tournament, which is sponsored by the restaurant chain, is the culmination of about a month of football practice for the youngsters. The season starts Sept. 15.
“These are preseason games and they won’t affect the teams’ standing,” Johnson said. “We tell the kids that the games don’t count, but the sportsmanship does.”
The tournament also represents the SYA’s biggest fundraiser of the year, which allows the league to offer a large number of scholarships to worthy young players, said Damian Caracciolo, an SYA commissioner. Even in affluent Northern Virginia, families still need help paying the SYA fees.
“With our scholarship program, we can help to make sure that no kid can’t play football because they can’t afford to,” Caracciolo said. “We have provided about 25 percent more scholarships this year.”
The tournament is a big deal for many of the families who participate.
“This is something that we look forward to all year long,” said Beth Jewell, of Centreville, whose son, Bryan, 11, plays center on one of the SYA teams. “Our entire family just can’t wait for the (SYA) football season to start.”
Claudette Thibodeau, of Falls Church, came to the park on Saturday to watch her grandson, Chance Morrison, 12, play fullback for a SYA team. Chance’s older squad seemed to have a better grasp on the game than when he played with younger teams.
“They all move around better and don’t seem to clump up as much as they did when he was younger,” Thibodeau said.
Chance’s mom, Alyce Morrison, of Centreville, is a big supporter of SYA football, but said she has high hopes that her son’s future could lay in football management.
“I hope he can go to college and become something like a Jerry Maguire type,” she said, referring to the 1996 movie in which Tom Cruise’s character portrayed a successful player’s agent.
The tournament was also sponsored by the Elizabeth Ann Healy Foundation, of Clifton, which provides financial assistance to families with sick children.
“It’s about youth football,” said Tom Healy, who co-founded the foundation after the 2009 death of his 19-year-old daughter. “We are also here today to get the word out that we help parents whose kids get sick and need financial support.”