HANOVERTON – United Little Eagles celebrates the 50th anniversary of youth football. United will have an annual Little Eagles night on Friday night as well as celebrate their alumni with a high school soccer game against Leetonia.
Little Eagles enter the game as long as they are wearing T-shirts and their teams are recognized by United before the game. The cheerleaders will cheer alongside the high school cheerleaders for part of the night and help create a tunnel to the entrance of the Golden Eagles.
“Every year (United) has one night they recognize Little Eagles,” said Little Eagles sports director Scott Blazer. “It just so happens it’s this Friday and it just so happens it’s graduation night so there will be people everywhere.
“Anyone who used to be a cheerleader will come downstairs to cheer for just a moment. They recognize (anniversary). “
In 1972, three men approached Jim Taylor about the need for United’s children to have their own soccer program. These men, Don McCartney, Gene Gilbert, and Don Yeasted all helped out with Salem Little Stars, Salem’s youth soccer program.
“In my first year when I played soccer, we didn’t have Little Eagles,” said Jim’s son Paul Taylor. “So I was playing for Salem Little Stars. Then these guys came up to my dad and said, “You have to think about starting the show because there are six or seven kids from United playing for Salem Little Stars.” So then he took it and he went to United, he got the permit and these guys helped him get started.
To run the show, Paul Taylor said his dad took a $ 10,000 loan – a loan that Jim never told his wife about until it was repaid in just a few years.
The goal for United Little Eagles was simple: teach the next generation the basics of football and involve more kids in their high school football program. According to Paul Taylor, United High School had about 20-22 children on the list before the Little Eagles program began. Now the Eagles consistently match over 30 kids in each game. The Little Eagles saw the show’s kids become All-Ohioans.
Today, on a voluntary basis, men and women from the Little Eagles program still teach 65 children from the program how to play football. They also have 50 Little Eagles cheerleaders on the show, according to Blazer.
“Our goal really is to participate,” said Blazer. “Sporting skill – winning and losing – and participating is probably our most important thing. We want to teach children to understand a game that has many moving parts and is part of a team – that team structure. We really try to teach kids to listen to coaches and learn how to participate in a game like this. Victory is secondary. We want them to learn to lose as well, a good sports attitude is one of the keys. “
The Little Eagles have three teams – bantam from kindergarten through third grade, junior varsity for grades 3-4 and varsity for grades 5-6.
While not directly related to the United Local School District, Little Eagles are in partnership with the school using the name United Little Eagles.
“We are our own soccer and cheerleader unit,” said Blazer. “We are not affiliated with the school, except that we can use United Little Eagles. We are an independent organization. We don’t get any money from the school, in fact we pay the school to use its facilities. It’s a little combination where they’ll recognize us, but that’s really it.
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