Rebels with a winning cause


Gridiron youth league in Glen Burnie has helped kids tackle the basics for 45 years


Don Hall has spent many days coaching and teaching young children the way to play football in the Gridiron Rebels program. So has Larry Waters.

When asked why the program has managed to stay around for 45 years, both gave similar and simple answers that have nothing to do with sports.

"The parents and the community," Hall said.

Said Waters: "The volunteers. It's really the volunteers that step up. It's a good group."

Hall is the president of the Glen Burnie-based program, while Waters serves as the football commissioner and vice president. Both have been with the Rebels for long stretches and said the program has grown into becoming a part of the community. The Rebels have stayed strong and successful despite the presence of several other nearby youth football programs.

"They've just got good, solid people running the organization," said Ron Lyons, president of Anne Arundel County Youth Football. "It's a close-knit core of people up in the northern part of the county, and that's why they stay together."

The Rebels have about 120 children playing in seven age/weight groups this season, from ages 6 to 15, and compete against other teams from around the county. There's 22 recreation football programs in Anne Arundel County, but the Rebels are believed to be the oldest.

In addition, the Rebels serve as a type of feeder system for the high school football programs at North County, Glen Burnie and Chesapeake. Waters has been with the group for about nine years and this fall is coaching a team in the 12-year-old, 115-pound division. It takes plenty of his time - but he doesn't mind.

The team practices three nights a week for about two hours. They then play games on Saturdays in a nine-game season plus playoffs.

The Rebels are rolling along at 5-0, and Waters is having fun.

"We teach more fundamentals and good sportsmanship," Waters said. "You want to win, don't get me wrong, but you also want to teach. I want to see improvement, but I want them to [have fun]."

Waters also said that his last two teams made the championship round but lost, so he'd like to have another shot at winning a title.

Waters is still coaching even though his two boys are long out of the league.

Hall is in a similar situation because his three kids also have grown out of the program. He began coaching before his children played with the Rebels.

"I've been doing this for 18 years, and when it stops being fun, that's when I'll stop," Hall said. "I enjoy the kids. I love the competition, but it's all about the kids."

All recreational sports programs need people who volunteer their time like Waters and Hall to make things happen. The help of dedicated parents and volunteers is crucial to a program like the Rebels because football is something that demands plenty of help.

Waters said parents and volunteers take care of details and tasks such as caring for the fields the games are played on, running the snack shack at the games, and serving as coaches and on the board of directors.

"It's just a good group," he said.

Hall, who's been on the board of directors since 1988, said parents will often go to away games for other Rebel teams just to show support. He said that if someone is seen wearing a Rebels T-shirt or jacket, that person will invariably get asked a question about the program because it's so well-known.

"We have a good community there," Hall said. "It's now people that played bringing their kids back. A lot of parents ... who played in the '60s and '70s are bringing their children here now."

Waters said the good support of the parents and volunteers is even more crucial because the number of children goes in a cycle for any program. Some years it's up, others it's down. But because there are so many other good programs in the area, children can move quickly if they want.

The cadre of experienced coaches also is a huge help for the Rebels.

Hall said coaches would always try to help each other because there's pride in what the Rebels do. He said that a bunch of Rebel coaches would get together regularly on Thursdays to relax and talk football.

"You're on a staff together, and you all look out for each other," Hall said. "We do have fun, but if you're going to work with somebody, and it's volunteer time, you've got to have fun, and that's what we do."

Hall's team of 11-year-olds is doing just as well as the Waters group. They are also 5-0 and running an offense that uses many different tools, like the pro-set and the wishbone.

"I have a passion for this," Hall said. "I love working with kids."

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