The Snoop Youth Football League (SYFL) held its 14th annual Super Bowl games at Pioneer High School, in Whittier, CA, on Sunday, December 3. Also called “The Snoop League”, based on the rap icon’s “Gin and Juice” persona of the 90’s, the league’s title is a bit misleading at first. From the outside, one might imagine a wild stadium in the hood, filled with Indo smoke, rap fans and groupies dancing to Snoop’s greatest hits, while occasionally watching football games and cheerleading amongst fights in the stands and homies drinkin’ 40’s. That would be easy enough, taking into consideration the stigma that goes along with rappers and their associates.
But this isn’t a story about rapper’s failed life or rowdy fans but about a rapper who has become a folk hero, growing up in the community’s eye to become a leader, mentor, and visionary. No one saw this coming, and while he maintains the urban swag of his legend, Snoop Dogg also bears his heart and soul to the people, and for 14 years, has kept his word and commitment to the community of coaches, parents, cheerleaders, volunteers, first responders, staff, and loyal fans, who follow the daunting task of making a difference in underserved communities, through youth football, cheerleading, and educational programs that award the off-the-field achievements of their young athletes and cheerleaders.
The SYFL took time to honor league co-founders, Snoop Dogg (AKA Calvin Broadus Jr.) and league Commissioner Haamid Wadood, as well as former USC football standout and former NFL All-Pro and New England Patriots Hall of Famer Willie McGinest, with painted portraits, plagues, and an encased football. All three honorees were humbled and moved by the generous acts of thanks and were not expecting the kind gestures and praise. McGinest, who also provides resources for the Snoop League coaches through USC training facilities, says it’s nice to be recognized but knowing the community is being affected positively is what it’s all about. Wadood remembers meeting Snoop in the Orange County league, where the two first fathomed the notion of creating the league. “Snoop and I met about 15 years ago, at South Orange County Junior All American League and we decided then that we wanted to create youth football that was more economically feasible, less of a travel burden on kids and their parents, and to put something [uplifting] back in the community for the people,” Wadood said.
Snoop Dogg is a modern-day superhero; his fame touches and blesses the people and makes them the stars. The “What’s My Name” icon, Wadood, and their allies are helping to bridge the gaps between inner-city youth and their pursuit of a better life. That’s the pact Snoop and Wadood made 14 years back. And while they get it done without much fanfare, today, the people forced them to pause for a moment and gather it all in with family, friends and the locals they have served throughout the years. During the day, Snoop greeted and took photos with everyone, young and old. He seems to gather energy from the people he serves; his celebrity is second to them. Snoop just wants to make a difference.
The applause from the players, staff, and stands echoed the community’s gratefulness. Snoop didn’t hide his emotions, shedding tears for 14 years of making things right in the hood, then holding high above his head, a spectacular replica painting giving to him by the league. “We are emotional because we don’t do this for accolades, we’re doing it from the bottom of our hearts. So [to be recognized] … its special,” said McGinest.
The Snoop League is more than football or cheerleading; it is the connecting line of a village, a sports-minded community with a purpose that connects the lives of children and their families. The SYFL Nation support the league’s focus because they see the results in their children. This league is unassumingly saving children’s lives; they are deterring gangs, correcting and uplifting kids with low self-esteem, supporting the family unit, making attending a major university a reality, and countless selfless actions without much media attention.
League president Tarik Ross stopped from his rigorous day to reflect on the event. “Our Super Bowl event is great because we meet our goal of providing a good safe environment for football games and cheer. Each year, our mission is to produce a Snoop League Super Bowl event to celebrate family, community, football and cheer,” Ross said. Snoop greeted and took photos with every person, young or old, who approached him. According to Wadood, Snoop’s legacy is not only his music but the SYFL and touching so many people’s lives. “The SYFL is preparing kids as student-athletes and cheerleaders. Many of our kids are the first to go to college. We want to produce educated college grads from the community,” Wadood said.
According to Dedrian “Dee Dee” Small-Hayes, SYFL executive board member, and Scholastic director, the league’s emphasis are on the student’s scholastic component; there is a high percentage of SYFL athletes who have at least a 3.0 GPA or above. “The goal for our scholars is to strive for academic excellence and continue to provide assistance for those who face challenges. I share with our scholars that they have options and a bright future on and off the field. This just serves as a recreational vehicle,” she said. Small-Hayes suggests the results are being displayed by hundreds of SYFL alumni who have attended college, many on academic and athletic scholarships and even one Rhodes Scholar. The league is proud to boast of alumni in professional careers as attorneys, doctors, law enforcement, military, along with leaders leading by examples, coming back to the community and making a difference. “Our founder, Calvin Broadus, continues to change lives for our children in a positive light. I’m a firm believer that ‘leadership’ is taking responsibility where others are making excuses. Given the resources provided, our SYFL scholar-athletes are destined for greatness.”
For the boys and girls of the SYFL, they learn a skill and life lessons through hard tackles, challenging choreography and tough love from their football or cheer-coaches, who often dedicate months of their time to this kind of community building work. “Man … listen, since early August we come with this thing [youth football and cheer] … and here we are. What’s the date, December 3rd?,” said position coach Michael Gammage, of the Rams 12-U division. SYFL Commissioner Haamid Wadood feels the coaches are the heartbeat of the organization. “The [football and cheer] coaches are the most intricate part of the whole thing because they are closest to the kids,” said SYFL Wadood. “These volunteers are the men and women who often become surrogate relatives during the season and though out the offseason.” Coach Gammage agrees, suggesting that coaching is more than wins, losses, and trophies. “One of the most important things is that you’re raising young men and young women in some cases, but the coaches are the extension of the parent, who helps raise the child,” he said.
The Snoop League works because committed volunteers give of their time in a spirited effort to make their communities better through football and cheer. In 14 seasons, the Snoop league has affected thousands of young people and their families in underserved communities, where paying for football wasn’t always an option for those with economic challenges. But the league is predicated upon the goal of giving back and creating opportunities where there are none. During Super Bowl XIV, the league took time out to spotlight and honor their scholastic achievers with awards, certificates, and gifts. But most importantly, the league demonstrated their commitment to academic achievement by awarding the positive off-the-field work their kids have put in. “People think we’re (players, cheerleaders, coaches, and cheer-coaches) just out here playing football [and cheering] but we do a lot behind the scenes to help the kid’s growth, not only on the field but their schoolwork; they have to maintain a certain GPA,” McGinest said.
Wadood speaks of nostalgic memories of his Pop Warner days in the King Conference, where he played for the Wilshire Youth Athletic Committee. As league Commissioner, his influence is no happenstance. “My mom was a part of my [Pop Warner] experience; she started as team mom, went to team manager, and went to president. My brothers and sisters came up through it. I know what it did for my life and my son’s life,” said Wadood.
Wadood’s son, Jaleel Wadood, came up through the SYFL ranks and is currently a senior four-year scholarship defensive back for the UCLA Bruins. “We [SYFL] have only been up and running for 14 years but in those 14 years, I’m proud to say that we have so many kids in Division l colleges, law enforcement, and the armed services,” said Wadood. According to Wadood, there are approximately 12 SYFL alumni players currently in the NFL, including standout wide receivers, John Ross of the Cincinnati Bengals and Juju Smith-Schuster of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The league is growing in popularity, as out of state conferences are interested in helping extend the program on a national level. Cedric Davenport, who runs the Chance for Life Youth Football League in Houston, Texas, came to L.A. for the SYFL Super Bowl for an opportunity to bring the league back to Houston. “I’ve been a part of other leagues in Houston but I feel the Snoop league will give our kids national exposure, to not only be locally known but nationally known. We like what the league stands for,” said Davenport. CFL league associate Nickey Mays sees a deep sense of community in the league, “I like the ‘urban-ness’ of it. We [African Americans] are so stereotyped but if you come out here, you see everyone just getting along and enjoying themselves. It’s a different level of unity and I have an appreciation for that,” said Mays.
Whether winning the Super Bowl or losing the game, the community wins today and the youth see a brighter path to their future, through an agreement between two concerned brothers and a community who supports a solid mission in their community.“We’ve had great games all day, from Future League-to-14 youth. The crowd is having a good time, the cheerleaders are having a good time, the parents are out and their kids are having a great time. That’s what it’s all about,” said Snoop.To learn more about SYFL, visit the link http://snoopyfl.net/
Additional photos (E. Mesiyah McGinnis / Sentinel)