Little league coach has big dream for team

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By Alice Du Pont

Shannon Faison coached little league football in Gadsden County throughout the fall of 2012. His aim, along with several other volunteers, was to teach the young men skills and sportsmanship combined with a large dose of respect for authority and pride in accomplishments. He also wanted to save as many at-risk kids as he could from the choosing the streets over education.

“We were keeping them off the street and getting them to do something constructive and physical. If you’re tired, it’s hard to go out and get into trouble,” Faison said.

When he heard about the National Super Gridiron Bowl Championship Tournament, he knew it would be an excellent opportunity to give local kids exposure as well as a reward for meeting goals academically and on the football field.
“I selected the best players from throughout the county. It is really an all-star team. The team’s name is Havana Gladiators; it’s a nod to the old Havana Northside football team. There are 30 kids on the team; all of them are 13- and 14-year-olds. They come from Crossroad Academy, Havana Middle, Carter-Parramore Middle and James A. Shanks Middle schools. and all of them are in eighth grade,” said Faison, who is the team’s head coach.

The National Super Gridiron Bowl Championship Tournament is held annually in the city where the Super Bowl is played on the Saturday preceding the Super Bowl game. The event has become a part of Super Bowl Weekend with regularly sold out crowds.

All funds raised from the game stay in the community and is used for project to benefit youth in that city. Teams from throughout the United States participate in at least two games before a champion is named.

“They’ll be up against some pretty tough competition. Deion Sanders has a team coming from Dallas. and Snoop Dog’s team from L.A./Compton and other places. There are two teams from Florida. including one from Miami and one from Tampa. We probably come from the smallest community,” he said.

The games will be played at Lafrenier Park in Metairie, La., just outside New Orleans.

While the players and parents have raised a lot of the money needed for the trip, they are still a little short.
“The entire trip is going to cost about $6,500, and we have a little more than half. That’s why we’re appealing to the public for help. An individual can sponsored one child for $125, but we appreciate any and all contributions,” Faison said.

This isn’t just a sports trip; it could be a life changing experience for most of them because many of them have never been out of Florida, Faison said.

To help, send checks or money orders, payable to: Good Kids Inc., 26 Gibson Sawmill Road, Havana, FL 32333.