By Thania Betancourt
TEMPE, Ariz.- Becoming a future Arizona State University football player or cheerleader begins with a dedication to academics, athletics and serving the community. Attending the annual ASU-American Youth Football and Cheer Clinic is a good place to start, too.
More than 1,000 children throughout the Valley came out to the inaugural ASU-AYF Youth Football and Cheer Clinic Saturday at the Kajikawa Practice Fields on the Tempe campus to learn football and cheerleading basics from some of ASU’s top football student-athletes and cheerleaders.
Along with free admission to the youth clinic, the ASU-AYF Sun Devil Football Experience includes a 40-percent discount off the regularly priced $25 tickets to the USC game on Sept. 28 and the opportunity for the children who attended the clinic to be featured in the Devil Walk prior to the game.
ASU and AYF teamed up earlier this year to provide children from kindergarten to eighth grade from various Valley youth groups such as AYF, Alliance Youth Sports, Empowerment Through Sports (ETS), Pop Warner and Coast to Coast with the full Sun Devil Football Experience.
Mike Meitin, Director of SDA Ticket Sales and Service, and Senior Ticket Sales Consultant Aaron Ostrovsky played instrumental parts in making this experience a reality, and the two of them stressed the importance of building an affinity for Sun Devil Athletics and Arizona State University at an early age.
“We want to be the Valley’s team,” Meitin said. “Winning on the field starts with winning in the community and in our backyard.”
Meitin said creating opportunities that are not only unique, but also valuable for all parties, such as connecting two different generations of football players, is a top priority for his team. Something as small as catching a pass from a current football student-athlete, he said, can prove to make lifelong impression.
AYF Commissioner Dee Grayer, who reached out to Sun Devil Athletics to put on the event, said he is deeply honored that ASU allowed AYF, along with the other programs, to enjoy the Sun Devil experience.
“We just want the kids to get off the video games and get off the couch on a Saturday morning,” Grayer said.
While football student-athletes ran a variety of offensive and defensive drills with boys, Sun Devil cheerleaders also ran drills for girls who are eager to become a part of the program. Clinic attendees also took photos with head coach Todd Graham and received autographs from student-athletes.
ASU alumna Olivia Harris took her 6-year-old son, Davion, and his friend, Carter, who are both first-year ETS youth players.
“They were up at 5 o’clock waiting to come here,” she said.
Harris said Davion already aspires to be a future Sun Devil and he someday hopes to tap the entrance to the Pat Tillman Memorial Tunnel like the football players who did on Saturday, during a tour of Sun Devil Stadium.
“He told me, ‘Mommy, I want to come back and hit it,’” she said.
Senior Associate Athletic Director for Football Operations Tim Cassidy said Sun Devil Athletics is always looking for ways to give back to the community and this is one of the many opportunities to do so.
“This is something we want to build on year in and year out,” he said. “If we had the accommodations we would take 5,000 kids.”
Chandler resident Tiffany Edwards said it was great to see the cheerleaders work with her 13-year-old and 11-year-old daughters.
“It’s great that they are bringing up the next generation of Sun Devils,” she said.
Parents like Harris said she and her boys left the clinic on a good note.
“All in all it was a good experience. We’re definitely coming back,” Harris said. “I know my son is excited.”
Cassidy said he hopes these kids leave this experience knowing they can someday call ASU home.
“Once they are on campus, and have contact with our players and our coaches, I think we will have a bunch of future Sun Devils,” he said.