OPELIKA, AL (WTVM) - The Opelika Auburn Gators Youth Football Program is pretty special to the community. It's the only travel ball team in East Alabama for eight to twelve year olds. In their first year of existence they made it to the championship game.
The kids practice at George Brandy Park on Jeter Avenue in Opelika. Playing travel ball is a big deal for these kids from the west side.
"What we want to do is be able to give back to the kids who are less fortunate in our community," said coach Mario Mitchell. "We're in the Jeter Street community, which on this side of town, we don't have a Boys and Girls club, we don't have a rec department. So, when these kids get out of school, they don't have anything else to do, so if we're not careful the streets will claim them. So what we're trying to do here is grab these kids, keep our arms around these kids and teach them football."
Playing for the Gators keeps the kids out of trouble, off of the internet and gets them outside. It also keeps their grades up. These kids know that school comes before football and most get A's and B's.
"They have to maintain a C average in order to play on this team," Mitchell said. "We keep up their grades and we make sure that they're on course to be a student athlete versus an athletic student."
But, they are looking for athletes. Tryouts are April 30th at George Brandy Park in Opelika.