ROCKINGHAM — In preparation for the upcoming season, which officially begins at the end of the month, the Richmond Raider Youth Football Program is hosting summer practices every Tuesday and Thursday from 6:15-8:15 p.m.
There were no workouts this past week due to the celebration of Independence Day, but Errol Hood — president of the organization — and the young Raiders will be back on the Richmond Senior High School practice fields next week.
All children ages 5 to 14 are encouraged to come out to the practices, Hood says, as there are no tryouts. Each age group (6u, 8u, 10u, 12u, 14u) welcomes anyone willing to learn the correct way to play the game of football — no matter the skill level.
“The whole purpose of the program is to help each kid jumpstart their career so that when they get to Richmond, they’re already the man. They won’t be scared of the competition,” Hood said. “Coach (Bryan) Till won’t have to teach the basic fundamentals of the game because we’ve already done it … They will know all of the terminologies.
“So if you want to get better,” he added, “now is the time to be here so you can fine tune those skills and be the kid that stands out whenever your time comes.”
The Raider Youth Program, which Hood helped create eight years ago, is a non-profit organization that competes as a member of the North Carolina Amateur Athletic Union (NCAAU) and acts a feeder program for the high school’s football team.
Since its conception, the organization has had 46 former players go on to compete at the college level.
One of Hood’s sons, Caleb, helped the 14u team finish undefeated in 2016 and is heading into his second season as the starting quarterback for Richmond’s varsity team. His other son, Kellan, is a rising freshman on the junior varsity squad.
Now that he no longer has a “foot in the race,” seeing that Caleb and Kellan have outgrown the youth program, Hood admits that he had to take a step back and find himself again. From here on out, the main goal won’t be to win every football game but to “create an environment for every kid to come in and learn the game of football.”
And with that change of approach, he hopes, winning will become second nature.
“Instead of just coaching the 8u and 14u teams, I want to be able to oversee everything and have my hands on each level,” Hood said. “I’m trying to put head coaches in place so that I can sit on the sidelines and help them coach. That way, I can make sure all of the teams and kids are ready … and so far we’ve done a great job being able to manage our program.”
This year, the Raiders are joining a new conference alongside the Sandhills Patriots — Pinecrest’s AAU feeder program — and a number of other programs associated with high schools that compete in the 4A Sandhills Athletic Conference.
The first official day of the season is Monday, July 30, and less than two weeks later, Saturday, Aug. 11, the teams will “finally be able to hit somebody other than themselves” at the conference jamboree on the high school’s practice fields. Last year’s jamboree featured more than 30 teams and brought a couple thousand people to Richmond County.
The one-day event is a fundraiser to help the program purchase game uniforms and more.
“It’s not that far away,” Hood said of the upcoming season. “It’s a never-ending thing, but this is what I love to do.”
For cost and more information, contact Hood by phone at 910-331-6896 or on Facebook at “Errol Nathaniel Hood.”
“DATES TO REMEMBER” FOR THE UPCOMING SEASON
Monday, July 30: First official day of the season
Tuesday, Aug. 7: All paperwork due
Saturday, Aug. 11: Conference jamboree (RSHS practice fields)
Saturday, Aug. 18: NCAAU state jamboree (Rocky River High School)
Saturday, Aug. 25: First week of games
Saturday, Sept. 1: Bye/holiday week
Saturday, Sept. 8 – Oct. 27: Regular season
Saturday, Nov. 3: First round of playoffs (Fayetteville)
Saturday, Nov. 10: Second round of playoffs (Rockingham)
Saturday, Nov. 17: Third round of playoffs (Charlotte)
Saturday, Dec. 1: State Championships (High Point)
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. by phone at 910-817-2673 or by email at [email protected] For stories, scores and updates, follow the Daily Journal’s sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.