Oakland Pop Warner team trying to raise money to go to national championships

Sitting just off Highway 880 in one of the rougher parts of West Oakland, Raimondi Park gives little hint of being any field of dreams. The old artificial turf on the football field is worn and lumpy, and the unreliable lights and scoreboard symbolize the mere flicker of hope there.

On occasion, youth football teams from outside the city have opted to forfeit games rather than trek into that neighborhood to play.

The East Bay Warriors Under-10 football team takes one of their last practices Friday at Raimondi Park in Oakland. The team is scheduled to leave for the Pop Warner Super Bowl in Orlando, Florida, in the first week of December, and needs to raise more money to fund the trip. (Don Feria for Bay Area News Group) 

With one of the largest homeless encampments in Oakland nearly pressed up against the back of one of the end zones, in some ways ramshackle Raimondi has become a place of broken dreams.

Well, right up to the point when the East Bay Warriors, a Pop Warner football team of 8- to-11-year-olds, show up. Their arrival each week is the very manifestation of hope at the park.

Filled with aspirations and promise, the 30 boys have banded together on their flawed home turf to become one of the top U-10 teams in the country. They’ve blasted through an undefeated season, going 10-0 while winning games by an average of nearly 25 points and never once trailing.

“It’s almost like the issues we deal with make us who we are,” said Warriors coach Michael Ott. “So the lights on our field don’t work? We don’t stress over it. We love Oakland and understand the many issues the city is juggling.

“It’s like our families have way bigger things to worry about than lights or whatever.”

East Bay Warriors Under-10 football team coach Mike Ott reviews notes while Tua Montoya has his hair braided Friday before the start of one of their last practices at Ernie Raimondi Park in Oakland. (Don Feria for Bay Area News Group) 

In a little over a week, these Warriors players, many of whom have played together since they were 6, will board a flight to Orlando, Fla. for their final test at the Pop Warner National Championships.

Most of them will, anyway.

The harsh reality is that competing for a national title comes at a price — each player must pay $1,000 for the 10-day trip to the Universal Studios complex starting Dec. 2. That  doesn’t even include spending money. For many of the team’s low-income families, it’s simply too costly.

Unfortunately, this is a familiar story for the Warriors’ program, which draws players from East Oakland and West Oakland and has sent at least one team to the nationals for 17 consecutive years. Teams qualify and, invariably, kids get left behind.

The Warriors usually send multiple teams to Florida, but an average of 5-10 kids per year aren’t able to make the once-in-a-lifetime trip they and their teammates earned. This year, the U-10 Warriors are the program’s …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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