DONELSON, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Donelson-Hermitage Warriors sports program has been around for decades teaching kids the fundamentals of football and cheerleading. But the organizers say that this year has been the most challenging to recruit.

Everett Woods believes that in this age of technology, football can really help our youth. “It gets them out and to be active and involved,” said Woods. “I think it helps the overall development of a child and helps get them some physical activity.”

Since the Donelson-Hermitage Warriors youth program started teaching kids a love of the game 50 years ago, organizers say this was their hardest year just trying to get kids to sign up for the season.

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“I was posting on Facebook every other day trying to get kids to come and get our name out and everything like that,” said Cheer Coach Ashley Comer. “For one of our age groups, I was very nervous that we wouldn’t have enough.”

Comer said one challenge is money. They try to make it as affordable as possible – $150 per child for the season. Still, she said, many can’t afford that. 

“There are several coaches out there that pick up kids just to give them rides because parents can’t afford the gas to get them to practice. So, we try to do everything we can to help these kids,” said Comer. “We try to make it as affordable for the parents as possible.”

Woods said the second obstacle to recruitment is concern over concussions, especially with the younger kids. But, he said new helmets and new coaching have made the sport much safer. “There were a lot of concussions because kids were not being taught properly…We started to take that type of training to help prevent concussions, how to tackle with your shoulder, rather than your helmet; and keeping your head out of the action.”

In its heyday, the Warriors program had around 250 kids; now, it’s less than half that. That enrollment drop has tightened the program’s budget, and made fixes, like the gravel parking lot or the concession stand, a real challenge for this non-profit.

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“We all come out there to clean and run the concessions. Everett comes and picks out trash on Wednesdays. My dad goes and cuts the grass at both fields. All of that is done by us taking the time and going out there,” said Comer.

And to keep the program running another 50 years, they need the community to come out too. The Warriors’ home is the Ben West Jr. youth sports complex in Donelson. They’re inviting the public to come to the big 50th homecoming celebration on the weekend of Sept. 23. Click here for details on that event.