Coming off its most successful season in history, the Suntree Viera Youth Football League is growing in popularity.
The league, which began its 17th season last month, had 226 players register for tackle football this fall.
That’s up from 165 players that competed last season when the league swept all four of Pop Warner’s East Coast Conference championships and sent two teams to play in the Mid-America/Southeast Regional Showcase Championship.
In fact, the SVYFL was so popular this fall, the league has two 10U and 12U teams.
“My motto in life is, ‘If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always get,’” SVYFL President Shaun Hartman said. “Stepping outside our comfort zone (we wanted to say), ‘Hey, we’re not going to say no. We’re going to figure out a way to say yes.’ ”
In accordance with ECC rules, and in order to make sure they would not be accused of intentionally trying to stack teams, the SVYFL used a time stamp of registration to split the 10U and 12U teams.
The first 35 players who signed up were put on the Green team while the next group — 35 for 12U and 28 for 10U — were put on the Gold team.
Many of the Gold team members are new to tackle football, so there is definitely a learning curve. However, those players are also getting valuable experience and playing time that they would not have gotten had there just been one SVYFL team.
“They’re all growing together,” Hartman said. “We just want to see constant improvement week after week.”
After getting blown out by Palm Bay in the first game of the season, the 12U Gold team went into the third quarter of its next game against Melbourne trailing by just one point.
“They ended up being better in Week 2, significantly,” Hartman said. “It was cool to watch them go from the first half to the second half and make in-game adjustments based on what they were seeing.
“I was pretty impressed with the coaching staff to be able to recognize that and make it applicable for the kids.”
As the only Pop Warner football program located north of Pineda, the Hawks are able to draw players from a number of different areas.
“We had some kids come from Cocoa. We had some kids come from Rockledge. We had some kids come from Mims. We have a player on our 14U (team) from Titusville,” Hartman said.
“It’s really, hey, if you want to play football and you want to make the drive out here, cool. We’ll have you. We’re not being exclusive unless you live in a zone that’s tied to another Pop Warner organization.”
If you thought Viera Regional Park was a busy place last season, wait until the SVYFL’s Green and Gold teams are both at home.
“We’re going to have seven teams playing at home, two games running at the same time,” Hartman said. “It’s going to be intense around Viera Regional Park, for sure.”