CLIFTON PARK — The adults who run the Clifton Park Valor expect the teams' first season as a member of the Capital District Pop Warner Football League to come with both ups and downs.
That's OK with them. While winning games is among the objectives team president Pat Fiore and his coaches have set, that is not way high on the list.
"We're going to play to win, but if the kids lose doing their best, we can use that to teach a life lesson," said David Guy, CP Valor co-head coach with Justin Spraker. "Nobody speaks about failure. Difficult things are going to happen to you. We want them to understand that failure creates success ."
Teaching life lessons of that kind are a big part of Fiore and his staff's vision for the 18-member group of 8-to-11-year-olds who will play later this summer and into the fall in the CD Pop Warner League's Junior Pee Wee Division.
"Our goal is to build better football players, but more so to build better young men," Fiore said. "We've created this environment."
Though practice for Pop Warner begins Aug. 1, the Valor has been meeting twice a week since March at the Shenendehowa campus for football workouts, fun and games, and honest chat sessions about such things as bullying, the dangers of drugs and alcohol, handling pressure in a positive way, being a good teammates, being a good sport and being a responsible citizen.
"We tell the boys, 'We want to give you a skill set to be a better brother, son, husband, father,'" Fiore said. "At the same time we're trying to build a love of football. Participation numbers in the sport are down. Let's keep them engaged with the hope they'll continue to play football. We'd love to see each of them playing for Shenendehowa one day."
And maybe for the high school's baseball or basketball team, too.
"We encourage the youngsters to play other sports," Fiore said. "Every kid plays at least one other sport. A handful of them are involved with jujitsu."
Fiore said his program will continue beyond the actual playing season.
"We wanted to do more than a three-month program," said Fiore. "The football season is so short. August to mid-October. We wanted to make it more of a travel experience."
In preparation for its inaugural season, the Valor played in flag football tournaments in New Jersey and Boston, and competed in three flag football sessions locally at Afrim's All-American Sports where it placed first one time in its division and second twice.
"We lost in a championship game in double-overtime, by one point, and there were so many learning experiences," Fiore said. "As a team, we grew the most from that experience."
The Clifton Park Valor will play eight regular-season games on Saturdays and Sundays, and there is a playoff tournament afterward. Shenendehowa's turf field will be its home playing site.
The Capital District Pop Warner Football League had 14 communities participate in its Junior Pee Wee Division in 2018 including Schenectady, Saratoga and Guilderland.
"We have every intention to have a Pee Wee [ages 9-12] team next year, and I am hoping to bring someone into the organization to start a cheerleading squad," Fiore said.