Youth Football in the Wake of Hurricane Harvey

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This article originally appeared in the September 8th issue of our newsletter, The Raven. Subscribe HERE.

Flooded football pitches at George Bush Park in the Houston-area.

Flooded football pitches at George Bush Park in the Houston-area.

Men in Blazers was built on the belief that football is one of the most important, least important things in life. For proof, look no further than Houston and the surrounding area, which was devastated by Hurricane Harvey last week.

After trying to get in touch with several youth football organizations in the area to see how we could help, GFOP Haley Carter - of Afghanistan Women’s National Team and Houston Dash fame - connected us with coach Seth Norton at Katy Youth Soccer Club, a recreational league in Houston’s western suburbs. Norton, an engineer who plies his trade in the energy industry, is a father of four and the coach of three teams in the league: U-19 boys, U-19 girls, and U-14 boys.

In Katy, practices were supposed to begin the week Harvey crashed ashore, but were postponed as players dealt with the storm and its unrelenting aftermath.

“A couple players on my U-19 boys team, I could’ve stood in their backyard and the water would’ve been over my head. And I’m six feet tall,” said Norton.

When the rain finally subsided, Norton searched for a solution to get his team together for the first time this season. He reached out to players and their parents via email, letting them know he would be at a nearby park, which had finally dried out, for a makeshift training session.

“I got a response from one parent who said they would love to come, but her boys didn’t have anything. No shoes. No shinguards. They lost everything in the storm.”

Here is where Houston-area youth football needs help. Katy, and most clubs affected by the storm, are members of the South Texas Youth Soccer Association. They have set up a YouCaring Website that is taking donations to help parents, coaches and clubs get kids back on the field as soon as possible.

In Katy, teams were supposed to have their first games this weekend. That has been delayed. But as the flood waters recede, Norton has been able to set up several impromptu practices and pickup games, during which he’s already experienced firsthand football’s healing power.

“It’s refreshing to get my mind off all the destruction,” he said. “For the kids, I think it brings a sense of normalcy. Getting out to the field, seeing their friends, smiling and laughing. Getting away from their house with all the sheetrock cut out or the hotel room they’re living in while their house is being rebuilt. It’s just a game, but it’s also about relationships. And a chance to reconnect with friends and make sure everyone’s all right.”

We love you, Houston. And we love you, football. COURAGE.