BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — The Anthony Wayne Youth Foundation (AWYF) was founded in 2006 with the premise: “It’s about the kids.”
That premise still holds true, as the nonprofit organization continually works to meet the demands of a growing community. In 2021, the AWYF served more than 3,500 youths and 1,500 families.
“Our goal is simple. We want to provide the best possible opportunities for kids to grow and thrive,” said Taylor Kervin, AWYF executive director.
The goal for each program is to provide solid instruction in a fun environment.
Serving the kids is a priority and it takes a team of volunteers to coach, fundraise and serve on boards. Those interested in joining the board or assisting with any of the sports divisions are asked to contact Kervin at email@example.com.
New to the AWYF this year is the Anthony Wayne Junior Generals Volleyball Club (AWJRGVC), which was just voted in as a division of the AWYF last month.
With the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s decision to add boys volleyball to the list of high school sports, the kindergarten through sixth-grade (K-6) program will be geared toward both boys and girls, said Chrissy Graven, AWJRGVB treasurer and varsity head coach.
The K-2 skills league is designed to introduce boys and girls to volleyball. Each skills session is led by high school volleyball coaches and players and includes drills that emphasize the essentials necessary to provide a solid introduction to the game.
The focus is preparing the athletes for organized league play beginning in third grade. The sessions will be held Tuesday and Thursday evenings for the last three weeks of June.
The third- through sixth-grade co-ed recreation league runs from July through August with one practice and one scrimmage per week. High school players coach students on the philosophy of the high school program to develop skills to play the game throughout the season, including passing, setting, attacking, serving and defending.
The co-ed teams are divided into grades 3-4 and 5-6. Practices are on Mondays and scrimmages on Wednesdays in July and August.
A travel program for grades 3-6 takes place from late August through October, with practices and league play. Games are played on Monday nights and Saturday mornings within the Northwest Ohio region in the TVC League and Defiance League.
Graven, a 2003 graduate, played volleyball in high school and college and coached club volleyball for eight years before returning to coach at Anthony Wayne in 2012. This is her second year as head coach for the high school.
“We’ve done camps and leagues for 12 years, but I still get questions from the community,” she said. “We need to increase awareness for what we’ve established, and that’s why we joined the youth foundation.”
The addition of the K-2 program is in response to questions by parents over the years, she said. With many other sports beginning earlier, it made sense for volleyball to do the same.
While the high school players are able to run the K-2 program and 3-6 summer league, Graven said she’s looking for help from parents to coach the 3-4 and 5-6 fall travel teams because the times overlap with the high school season.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Anthony Wayne Junior Generals Basketball (AWJRGBB) is a rec basketball program for students in grades K-8. This last season wrapped up with 145 athletes in the K-2 skills league, plus 290 players on 28 teams for grades 3-8.
The fall and spring K-2 skills clinics focus on fundamentals and philosophies. These clinics are designed by AWHS varsity coaches and carried out by members of their staff and parent volunteers.
The grade 3-6 rec program is available to all skill levels and continues to focus on the fundamentals of basketball, including dribbling, passing, shooting and game play. The teams are coached by parent volunteers while the AW student-athletes help to referee and run the scoreboards.
The AWJRGBB program provides opportunities for boys and girls in grades 3-6 to learn the game and play a higher level of competition in games and tournaments in Northwest Ohio, said boys program coordinator Joe Shaw.
“This prepares the kids for junior high and high school basketball,” he said.
The season wrapped up its season with 97 athletes led by 27 coaches.
During a recent boys free-throw fundraiser, players raised $7,500 by getting pledges for every shot made out of 100 throws. Sixth-grader Max Valentine made a whopping 85 out of 100.
Jami Carter, the high school girls coach, is an at-large board member for the girls travel program and the rec basketball program.
“Our youth basketball program has several layers to make sure that we are meeting the developmental needs of all of our future Generals,” she said.
The AW Lady Generals Travel Basketball program, established in 2018 with the support of the AWYF, has grown quickly.
“As a direct result of the travel program, we are seeing a noticeable increase in players trying out for the junior high teams. We are expecting this to begin to carry over into the high school as our inaugural travel team has just completed their freshman season,” Carter said.
“What may go unrecognized is the opportunities for our junior high and high school players and coaching staff to interact with our youth players through these programs, which aids us in building a true program from 12th grade down through third.”
The Anthony Wayne Youth Football League (AWYFL) was formed in 2001 for boys to learn fundamentals and develop skills through K-6 flag football or grades 3-6 contact football.
The flag football team in particular has grown tremendously, with 200 boys on 26 teams, said board president Patrick Johnson.
“Flag football is such a big hit nowadays,” Johnson said. “It helps to teach the boys the fundamental skills of the game and basic game flow. Games are played against other Anthony Wayne teams on the weekends.
In third grade, the boys can make the decision on whether to move to contact football or stay in flag football. Safety is always a parental concern and Johnson explains AWYFL takes safety seriously.
All players are taught the Hawk tackling technique and all contact coaches are certified in teaching the technique. Dummies and hit shields are used whenever possible to decrease the contact between players during practice.
“Flag and contact are two totally different styles of play,” Johnson said, explaining that speed and agility are affected by wearing pads and protective gear. The format of games and playbook are slightly different as well.
The contact football program is one of the largest programs in the Northwest Ohio Youth Football League. Games are played against teams from area schools at The University of Toledo Glass Bowl for a great game-day experience, he added.
AWYFL gets feedback from high school coach Andy Brungard to incorporate drills and insight into training and style of play for both flag and contact.
Practices will begin on August 1, with registration beginning July 1 for both contact and flag.
Soccer is by far the largest sport under the AWYF umbrella, with more than 570 boys and girls in the Anthony Wayne Youth Soccer League (AWYSL) and 185 in the travel Anthony Wayne United Soccer Club.
The AWYSL adopted the motto “Just For the Fun of It” just after it was founded in 1978 and lives up to that motto, said Raegan Sawyer, referee coordinator.
Sawyer started playing as a 5-year-old and then progressed to coaching her brother’s team and is now the referee coordinator.
“In most sports, once a kid transitions to high school, it ends,” she said. “With rec soccer, kids can play throughout high school. It’s about being out on the field, having fun and being healthy.“
For teens, the league also offers opportunities to referee games and earn $20.00 to $55.00 a game depending upon their experience and the age level of the games.
Anthony Wayne United Soccer Club was founded 39 years ago with the goal of helping youth soccer players achieve their highest potential, said Ben Barrett, director of coaching.
Open to boys and girls ages 7-14, last season it had 185 kids on 15 teams. Tryouts are scheduled for June 6-10 at Blue Creek Recreation Area for this season.
“Tryouts are free. Come check it out,” Barrett said. “We want to grow. We’re not capped.”
Parents shouldn’t be intimidated by the travel aspect, as most of it is local, except for some tournaments. The cost can be a challenge, but it covers three seasons – fall, winter and spring – and includes indoor play at the soccer center in Rossford. Payment plans are available to all families.
Barrett, a 2010 graduate, was on AW United through age 14 and then was a part of the high school soccer team that won two district titles. He has been coaching for 10 years, but this is his first year as club director.
“We’re always looking for volunteers to coach, or be on the board or help with fundraising,” he said.
Baseball and Softball
The Anthony Wayne Area Baseball Softball Association has been around since the 1970s with the goal of providing a safe, fun and active learning environment for kids to learn the fundamentals of baseball and softball.
The program focuses on skill development through clinics, practices and scrimmages between AW youth athletes.
Last year, the program had 450 players and 98 coaches. Softball offers teams for U-6 to U-12 as well as two travel softball teams. Baseball has teams for U-6 to U-16.
“We rely on volunteers to coach,” said Lauren Gedman, softball president. “Coaching is a blast.”
Board members and coaches always are needed, agreed Dustin Wyse, who handles the fields for the program. Players of all skill levels are encouraged to come out and play. Practices begin soon with play through July 4.
For baseball players seeking a higher level of competition, the AW Junior Generals Baseball Club provides an opportunity for ages U-8 to U-16 players to play 30 games with teams from the Northwest Ohio Baseball League as well as compete in tournaments, said Jared Hooks, president.
The high level of competition prepares the boys to play at the junior high and high school level – or to just have fun while being outdoors.
“Baseball is a sport that you don’t have to be the most athletic to play,” Hooks said “If you’ve got talent in another sport that translates well into baseball, you can figure out how to contribute without being super strong or super fast.”
Tryouts will take place the last Sunday in July and the first Sunday in August for the 10 to 12 teams that will be formed. Practices take place through June with games played at Blue Creek Recreation Area, Tom Allen Field in Whitehouse and in Monclova’s Keener Park and Community Park.
Last year, the club had 11 teams of 117 athletes and 37 coaches. Volunteers, especially those with some baseball experience, are needed, Hooks said.
Anthony Wayne Youth Lacrosse provides a fun, save and active learning environment to teach the fundamentals of lacrosse through clinics, practices and scrimmages for boys and girls.
Discover Lacrosse is a one-day skills clinic in the winter to introduce kids in kindergarten through eighth grade to the sport. For the spring lacrosse season, both rec and travel teams are available. They play games and tournaments against other Toledo-area teams. Last season, 130 students in grades 3-8 played rec while 35 boys played on two travel teams.
Ski and Snowboard
The Anthony Wayne Ski/Snowboard Club provides an opportunity for high school students of all skill levels – from beginners to experienced winter sport athletes – to travel to different ski resorts in Ohio and Michigan throughout the season.
Ski and snowboard lessons are available on each trip and students can either rent or bring their own equipment. The club typically makes two to four trips per year, traveling to Boyne and Brighton in Michigan this past year.
Anthony Wayne Junior Cheer gives students in grades K-6 a solid introduction to cheerleading fundamentals while having fun at the same time, said president Amanda Bialecki.
The cheer season is in conjunction with the AWYFL flag and contact football seasons, from August to October, and includes one or two practices a week along with cheering at all home football games. Last season, 104 athletes led by 17 coaches participated in the program, which relies on volunteer coaches and is looking for board members.