Nick Wright, President
South Jersey United Football League
One visit to the Gloucester Township Lions facility at Lakeland Memorial Park and I am fully convinced that the South Jersey United Football League (SJUFL) is lucky to have gained such an incredible program. The Lions bring a competitive and family-based program to the SJUFL, and understanding the dynamic of youth football in Gloucester Township only makes us more appreciative of their decision to join our League.
You see, Gloucester Township has two youth football programs, which means that the Lions, much like the Rancocas Valley Chiefs, are in direct competition with another organization within their high school sending district boundaries. There is a constant struggle within Gloucester Township for athletes and resources, and so the Lions have taken an admirable approach to competing with their Township counterpart--creating a family based atmosphere that is supportive and character-driven.
Much of what Gloucester Township does to create family atmosphere is evident on their social media platforms. Gloucester Township has one of the most active social media campaigns that we've seen in the youth football community. They keep their families up to date on great things happening in their organization, including former players who are now playing in college and for the US National Team. They have created a slogan that has seemed to resonate with their families--"Lion for Life." At registration on GT Day, those who registered would don a GT Lions helmet and have a photo posted on the GT Lions Facebook page with the ubiquitous slogan, "Lion for Life." Some parents have even began to voluntarily post photos of their children with the same caption. The community has seemed to really embrace the slogan, and their families seem happy to commit to being "Lions for Life," which is evidence of a sense of loyalty that is a direct result of the organization's commitment to creating a great experience for all of their families.
When talking with GT President Jim Wells at practice, one could sense the pride that he has in the program that he has helped create and build. Jim will be coaching the Senior Division this year, a change from his most recent role at the helm of the Junior Division. Last year, the Junior Division won the TCMFL Eastern Conference Championship, and they, very obviously, are confident in their ability to continue their success in the SJUFL. While walking around the facility, something else that I noticed was that at some point during every division's practice I heard a coach say "keep your head up." The SJUFL is proud to be a Heads Up Football program, meaning that we are committed to teaching tackling techniques that reduce head and neck injuries as much as humanly possible. Our goal is that our athletes learn safe tackling techniques that will protect themselves and, ultimately, the game of American Football. Many times, organizations have trouble putting the heads up football theory into practice. However, the GT Lions have fully bought-in to providing a safe football experience for their players. And for that, we commend them.
All in all, it was an extremely enlightening and rewarding experience to visit the GT Lions on my SJUFL Preseason Camp Tour. I would like to thank Jim Wells and the entire organizations for allowing the SJUFL to observe their practice, and I look forward to watching the product on game day. I have no doubt that for the foreseeable future, the GT program will continue to churn out "Lions for Life."