Ar-Ken Youth Football and Cheer making a return to Arnold, New Kensington communities
In March, a few community members from Arnold and New Kensington set a goal to reorganize the Ar-Ken Youth Football and Cheer organization with the mission of giving young players an opportunities they once had.
In recent weeks, that goal has started to come to fruition. On July 8, that group of community members, headed by Ar-Ken President Mike Martin, opened up the league for registration and voluntary conditioning workouts.
More than 150 football players and cheerleaders between the ages of 5 and 13 have already registered.
They will participate in the Steel City Midget football league, with teams at four different levels — Pee Wee flag football (ages 5-7), Hawks (7-9), Falcons (10-11) and Eagles (12-13). The teams will start official practices July 27; their first scrimmage will be Aug. 17.
“We didn’t even have a bank account when we first started, and we are now on the verge of having brand new everything,” Martin said. “We’ve been doing a lot of fundraising, and we really kind of played off the tradition of it because everyone in Ar-Ken knows about Ar-Ken.
”So, it was just some people putting some trust in us, and it kind of exploded. The support has been amazing; never did I think it would be like this.”
The goal to recreate the league came from a void that was left when it folded about three years ago, which Martin said would’ve been the 50th anniversary. At the time, Martin’s work schedule kept him from helping in some way to keep the league going.
In the past few months a perfect storm came together when Martin received a promotion at work and his shift changed. Then, Jay Jackson, who is now the head of coaches for the league, put the word out on social media that he was interested in getting the league back together and started to contact people.
“First person I thought of was Mike and his brother who are stand-up guys, always in the community, and everything kind of worked out perfectly,” Jackson said. “With a few other people, guys in the community, mothers, we formed a board and called together a meeting.”
Martin and Jackson thought of everything the league meant to them as youths. When they grew up, both were able to create lifetime friendships, learn valuable lessons, and it ultimately shaped them into the men they are today. They wanted to provide that opportunity to the players.
“We are just coming up here and trying to instill into these kids what our coaches did for us,” Jackson said. “To this day I can still remember some of the things my coaches said. Something funny or something that was important.
“A lot of these kids don’t have fathers or positive men in their life, and at one point I was one of them. So, I know what type of impact my coaches had on me and how that helped me in my life to this day, so that’s what we are here trying to pass on.”
So far, the players have been growing through simple workouts. Running drills, doing speed work and things Martin said will get them into shape and ready for the upcoming season. But most importantly, he’s looking to teach them things that go beyond the football field.
“We want to bring it back to what it once was; we want to bring championships, but we want to teach them hard work, discipline, respect, and, more important than anything, we want to have fun,” Martin said. “These kids need to learn discipline and respect, and that’s our major goal.”
Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .