LIHUE — Pop Warner football has been on Kauai for 54 years, but leaders of the Kauai Pop Warner Football League are always looking for more exciting things for football enthusiasts, said Teddy Arroyo, KPWFL president.
Aug. 1 is the official start date for Pop Warner football on Kauai when the five associations — Kapaa, Lihue, Koloa, Hanapepe and Kekaha — can take the field for tackle football and cheer practice.
“Football is not just for guys,” Arroyo said. “In Pop Warner, cheer programs for girls are equally important. And not only is it safe and healthy, Pop Warner participants need to pay attention to their school grades like the high school and college people.”
One of the new features for the Pop Warner season is the addition of flag football for boys and girls ages 5, 6, and 7 years old.
“We play tackle football on Sundays, so we’re planning to have flag football on Saturdays,” Arroyo said. “One of the reasons for initiating flag football is to give participants and fans an understanding of the game. This prepares them for when they become eligible for the Mitey Mites, a tackle program.”
In addition to linking basics to higher levels of play, Heather Arellanes of the Lihue association said the Lihue Patriots will be re-branded to become the Lihue Red Raiders, aligning itself closer with the football and other programs at Kauai High School.
“We want the players to be ready for the next level,” Arroyo said. “It can be frustrating when the players learn something at Pop Warner and have to re-learn the game when they try out for high school football. We’re working with all the high schools to have this kind of continuity.”
Another facet of football is fan involvement.
“We want parents and fans to become involved,” Arroyo said. “Whether it is supporting the program by volunteering at games, or by fundraising, we want the fans to become more involved because these are their players. They wear the Pop Warner uniform, but they’re our people.”
Fundraising is a key part of Pop Warner football.
“With all of the emphasis on safety, at Lihue association, we’re refurbishing our equipment starting with helmets,” Arroyo said. “This comes down to between $5,000 to $10,000. We are blessed with the generosity of our community who allow us to fundraise for this type of equipment costs. We’re partnering with King Auto Center on July 23 for a car wash, and we are so fortunate the Kauai County Farm Bureau allows the associations to raise funds through the food booths at the Kauai County Farm Bureau Fair — all for new equipment for the players.”
Arellanes said she broke down the costs, and an outfit per team for just what they wear at the game comes down to nearly $50,000 for each player.
More safety features being initiated due to new safety requirements will have players taking to the field during the last two weeks of July, Arroyo said.
“The coaches already had their briefing on new methods of tackling and other techniques to minimize concussion,” Arroyo said. “This is not just for Pop Warner. These concussion minimizing initiatives reach all the way to the National Football League and filters down to college, high school, and Pop Warner. The Mitey Mites and Junior Peewee players will play without kickoffs, this year. Our players will be out there learning the new techniques from the coaches and get speed and quickness conditioning ahead of the regular practice that starts Aug. 1.”
For the second year, KPWFL is involved with the Mauka to Makai campaign, advocating anti-bullying as well as helping kids who are bullied.
“This is great to be able to do something for people,” said Reyna Arellanes, a seventh-grade student who is a cheerleader with the Lihue association.
Cheerleaders will be performing during the Mauka to Makai symposium Saturday starting at 9 a.m. at the Kauai Marriott Resort and Beach Club.
“This Pop Warner program is more than just football,” Arroyo said. “We want people to know what we’re about at Family Fun Day, Aug. 6 where one of our community partners, Game On Kauai, will be on hand.”
KPWFL leadership includes Alida Lazaro as the vice president, Randi Levinthol as the secretary, Kristy Linoz as the scholastic coordinator, Ginny Agena as the treasurer, Cherie Linoz as the KPWFL cheer coordinator, and Yvonne Hosaka as the Westcon representative.