By Dan Megna
and John Pecoraro
Ramona Pop Warner (RPW) Football has been around for over 30 years, and its players, cheerleaders, parents and fans are anticipating the start of the 2012 season.
Pop Warner youth football is a national organization with roots that can be traced as far back as the 1930s when legendary football coach Glenn Scobie “Pop” Warner brought prominence to youth and junior level football.
By the 1960s, a formalized Pop Warner youth football organization was established with over 3,000 teams from coast to coast.
While teaching athletic skills and fundamentals are the cornerstones of Pop Warner, the organization also places an emphasis on teamwork, sportsmanship, physical fitness and academic success.
The need for youth football programs in the community came about in 1979 after Ramona High School (RHS) wrapped up what was becoming a trend of losing seasons.
After one particular game, longtime Ramona resident Jack Packwood, who had a background in coaching youth football while living in the Midwest, approached RHS varsity football coach Jack Menotti and asked, “Do you know why you’re having such little success?”
As Menotti began to rattle off several factors that he believed were to blame, Packwood stopped him mid-sentence and told him, “You have no youth football.”
Packwood suggested, if he could be assured support from RHS, he would be willing to shoulder the coaching responsibilities. Soon thereafter, with the support of Packwood’s own family, meetings were organized with RHS supporters and Ramona Pop Warner was created.
During the first several years, Packwood immersed himself in every aspect of the newly formed RPW. He instituted ideas for developing and managing the organization but also credited the players and the enthusiasm of the volunteers.
Packwood’s personal interest in RPW was not a selfish venture. Only his youngest son participated in RPW, and for only one year. Instead, Packwood created it for the youth of Ramona with the interest of the community at heart.
He believed, as the RPW players grew and matured and moved up to playing high school sports, they would already be experienced athletes who could have played as many as eight or 10 seasons in Pop Warner before entering high school. Packwood envisioned they would be the foundation for a competitive RHS football program.
Packwood loved the game of football and all it represented. He loved the sense of pride that it brought to the community, the players, and the families. Visiting coaches commented on the sense of “Americana” and “family” when playing in RPW at Bulldog Stadium.
Today, even after Packwood’s death, RPW strives to maintain his vision and continues to provide and promote youth football and cheer programs for the Ramona community. Even those who may be facing difficult financial circumstances will find RPW has programs to aid with the costs.
One such program for this year has been funded by the family of a former RPW player who was killed by violent crime. The parents felt they wanted to give back to the organization that meant so much to their son and to their own family.
RPW gives back to the community by dedicating weekend games at Bulldog Stadium to important causes. This year, in addition to the Annual Breast Cancer Awareness weekend, RPW will honor military with a Military Appreciation week.
RPW has also partnered with local businesses. This year Ramona Pop Warner and Ramona Fitness Center collaborated on the Youth Speed, Agility, and Conditioning Boot Camp. Over the course of the four week camp, nearly 100 youngsters participated in sessions that focused on sports fitness. Certified personal trainers provided age appropriate instruction in a fun and engaging environment.
The RPW season concludes in November with the Annual Packwood Bowl, an invitational tournament where RPW recognizes and celebrates Packwood and his family and all their contributions to RPW and local youth.
“There is no finer way to honor my father’s memory than to name a youth football game after him,” said Doug Packwood, Jack Packwood’s oldest son. “For him, youth in the community is one of the most important things on earth.”
For this upcoming season, RPW already has over 250 players registered for the various football teams and cheer squads. Supporting those programs are a small army of adult volunteers— 60 football coaches, 25 cheer coaches and the 15 members of the RPW Board of Directors who manage the day to day business and operation of the league.
Overall, the nationwide scale of Pop Warner has an estimated 425,000 players, ranging from ages 5 to 16, participating, making it the largest and oldest national youth football, cheer and dance organization in the United States.
John Pecoraro is vice president and Dan Megna is webmaster director of Ramona Pop Warner.
Players can still sign up for youth football’s 2012 season
Ramona Pop Warner started practice on Aug. 1 but players can be added to most teams through October. The first games will be played on Saturday, Aug. 25.
Anyone interested can call John Pecoraro, Ramona Pop Warner board vice president, at 858-437-7348, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or email board president Aundrea Zazas at email@example.com.