UNITY - In 14 years, 2020 was the first time ever the Unity Minor Football season was halted. The program, entirely run by volunteer executive and coaches, was elated to have the program back as a youth recreation option in Unity.
The UMF program includes a flag football division for Grades 2-6 while the junior tackle division is for kids Grades 6-8. The season runs from the end of August to typically the weekend before Thanksgiving.
This program has been a great boost for the senior high Warrior football program at UCHS, having kids come into high school football already knowing some of the football fundamentals as well as have some tackle experience. In 2007, then UPS Principal Doug English approached other community football enthusiasts and started a junior high tackle football program to increase interest in football, while conditioning players for the senior high Warrior game.
There are 18 registered players for the tackle division while flag registration is just starting, there are hopes for 20 or more players to come on board.
Jennifer Wilson has been part of Unity Minor Football since just after its inception. The program originally just offered junior high tackle football then evolved into a flag program for younger players before they set into the tackle football program portion of UMF.
Daikota Tanner has been the organization’s president for the past seven years, as well as serving as junior tackle coach. He became part of the program before he had children of his own, a testament to the heart of volunteers in Unity.
This year, Graeme Gieni serves as vice-president and flag coordinator and coach while Wilson serves as the coordinator for junior tackle. Sarah Craftchick is the treasurer for UMF while Joey Carriere serves as both flag and junior tackle coach.
While UMF is an independent kids’ sports organization in Unity, Wilson says they appreciate the help and support of the UCHS Warrior program and players who help with the field, the school and booth use. As an added bonus, senior warrior players come and help coach and mentor players. An added tradition is the UMF program offering half time games during the Friday Night Lights traditional home opener.
Wilson says, “With the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, and the pandemic prescribed hiatus in 2020, some of the teams, in the tackle division, from the North West Minor Football League (NWMFL) have dropped out for this year. Some teams from this league have decided to pursue their own options this year, so the league will consist of Unity, Macklin, Eatonia, Provost and Plenty. The season will include home and away games, with Unity hosting two home games this season.
In the flag division, teams include Macklin, Unity and Kerrobert and there's a plan to have flag jamborees at each community. A jamboree is a football fun day for players to practice skills, play some scrimmage games along with some instruction and other activity as each community adds in for the event.
“We will be following the COVID-19 guidelines that are outlined by Football Sask in their back-to-sport protocol and was distributed this spring,” says Wilson.
UMF alumni players and parents say that Wilson has been instrumental in maintaining enthusiasm and interest in the program. Her tireless efforts behind the scenes in both organizing the season, seeking volunteers, and keeping the booth open throughout the season have been beyond valuable for the organization.
Wilson is also lauded for being equally involved in the senior Warrior football program, organizing team meals, and keeping the booth as an added bonus for home games.
“Jenn is the CEO of the UMF and Warrior Booster club and you might not see all she does behind the scenes, you will certainly hear her enthusiasm on the field for games,” says one alumni player from both football programs.