If you look at the Mackle Park fields on a Sunday morning, you may think you’re watching an NFL game preview. Is that the Philadelphia Eagles playing the Denver Broncos? No, you are seeing the Optimist Club of Marco Island’s (OCMI) newly developed Flag Football program.
With more than 40 kids from around the island, the OCMI Flag Football program has become an exciting morning of long passes and touchdowns for kids and parents to enjoy together. “The fields are buzzing with excitement on a Sunday morning. There’s music, kids high-fiving, a National Anthem sung by some really great people, and a lot of smiles around the fields. It’s good stuff, really great for the kids and families,” stated Bianca Perez.
The OCMI Flag Football program, which draws boys and girls from Kindergarten through 5th grade, is being run by a group of parent volunteers who saw a need for adding quality recreational programs during the fall season. Head Coach Bob Bruni, who played years of football and has a passion for teaching and mentoring young kids, is the head coach for the program.
“We wanted to deliver a program that the kids could be excited about. By partnering with the NFL Flag Football Program, the kids who watch their favorite players and teams on TV, can wearNFL jerseys and play like the pros do.” commented Bruni. “This program was about laying the foundation for a future successful football program but more importantly giving the kids a safe and exciting environment to learn the principles of the game, emphasize leadership and instill sportsmanship on the fields.”
Fall is back to school, Halloween and Football. Adding this program for Marco Island has been another positive step forward for the Optimist Club. “We have participated in other flag football programs before moving here and knew that we could deliver something that the kids, parents and community could be proud of. Our emphasis, as with all Optimist programs, is on the kids having fun, playing with their friends and bringing the families together,” said Coach Tom Bonos.
In addition to the parent volunteers who work together every Sunday to create a fun, successful game day, the teams have 14 coaches who volunteer to work with the six individual teams. OCMI is also fortunate to have some great young men from the Lely High School and Marco Island Charter Middle School football programs volunteer to help as referees each week. “I love getting up on a Sunday morning seeing these young kids play a sport that I have grown up with. It’s nice to give back to the kids andto the Optimist program which has supported me in my development,” added Oliver Wassem, flag football referee and Marco Island Charter Middle School football player.
And if Flag Football wasn’t enough, OCMI has also started a mini-cheer program to add to the sideline enthusiasm. Dressed in pink jerseys with glitter pom-poms and adorable smiles, the girls, ages 3-5, do their best to cheer for the players. Run by Vayda Wassem and Lyndsi Koszo, the OCMI mini-cheer squad adds another element of dazzle and fun to the program.
“What would football be without cheerleaders?” laughed Lyndsi Koszo, director of the Marco Magic Competitive Cheer Program and recreational tumbling instructor. Wassem, who is a Lely High School cheerleader, has spent much of her life in cheerleading and tumbling. She commented, “These girls are so excited to learn new cheers and tumble at the end zones. They love being out there, and they’re amazing at how well they do. I never knew how much fun I’d have working with these little ones.”
Further, OCMI has partnered with O’Donoghue’s Restaurant who hosts the flag football families for an after-party to give everyone an opportunity to continue the fun off the field as well. “We are very lucky to have such an outpouring of support from our parents and the local community members. The folksat O’Donoghue’s have done a terrific job providing a fun, kid-friendly atmosphere to watch NFL games, meet new families and share some laughs. We can’t thank them enough for their support, generous hospitality and delicious food on a Sunday afternoon.” added Bruni.
Coach Rob Cashin summed it up: “This has been on the bucket list for me for a while. Every dad dreams of an opportunity to coach their child and surround them with friends who all have the kids at heart. The program has been more than just about flag football. This is about making happy memories for our kids. I am grateful that the Optimist Club is reinvigorating their youth programs. We are creating some special times for these kids.”
For more information about the OCMI Flag Football program, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Call for OCMI Soccer Registration
It’s not too late to register for OCMI’s fall recreation soccer season. Visit www.optimistsoccer.com to join the 2014-2015 season, which runs November-February. Participants will be placed on teams by age, and all children ages 3 and up are welcome. Practices will begin the week of Nov. 8, and games begin Friday, Nov. 21. New this year, the soccer program will feature an opening day Kick-Off Classic, OCMI Day at a Marco Island Charter Middle School soccer game and an end of the Jamboree. For more information, visit the OCMI soccer web site or email marcooptimistsoccer@ gmail.com.