Will Gowdy, president of the Wilshire Huskies and coach of the Senior Clinic (7-8-year-old league), came back to give back to the community because he guarantees he would be in a gang or dead if it were not for the Huskies.
“I liked football and baseball and they kept me out of trouble. The streets couldn’t get to me,” Gowdy said. “It’s sad because I have friends my age who are no longer here who made fhe wrong choice.”
The Wilshire Youth Athletic Club (WYAC) has played an active role in keeping kids, such as Gowdy, off the streets and away from negative influences since it was founded in 1977.
The team drips talent, as it is sprinkled with kids who have 4.0 grade point averages and players who are among the fastest youth runners in the entire country. Many former members have successfully moved on to play and cheer in high school, college and even professionally. They are testament to WYAC’s mission of guiding local 6-14-year-olds toward constructive and healthy activities. While this includes teaching kids the strategy behind a great play or the proper dismount technique for an elaborate cheer stunt, WYAC’s long-term goal is to instill sportsmanship, social skills and strength of character in all of its football players and cheerleaders.
Despite upholding a high degree of athletic proficiency for the entire season, Huskies also walk away with noteworthy academic records.
“Football is fun but education is for life,” Gowdy said.
All football players and cheerleaders are encouraged to participate in the team’s Scholastic Award program. If the student’s school confirms the child has a minimum of a B+ grade point average, the student is recognized at the team’s awards banquet.
Times have changed since Gowdy paid $40 to play and starred as a 14-year-old quarterback for the team’s first-ever season. While crime rates in the region ebb and flow, one of the key differences he sees is the dynamic of his players’ family life.
“Back in the day everybody would be at practice. Now, the young parents drop their kids off and leave,” Gowdy said.
The demanding lifestyle that the typical Huskies family faces — most of them single parent households — is often tied to financial difficulties.Each player needs to pay an average of $300-$400 worth of materials and fees to participate. Some of the families have up to five children enrolled. But the Huskies “never turn anyone away because they can’t afford to play”, according to Gowdy. Instead the executive board finds “creative” ways to help their member families, such as scheduling individual payment plans. Fundraising activity for scholarships includes roller skating events, selling chili at games, and partnerships with local restaurants. The board also reaches out to a variety of organizations for donations. For example, the Pico Neighborhood Council chipped in with helmets to keep the kids safe and the youth sports-focused LA84 Foundation issued a $10,000 grant.
"Persistence is key and any little bit helps", according to Gowdy.
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