When Cecil Anderson walked through the doors of the Dale City Sports Club (DCSC) in 1993, the new resident of Prince William County, Va., was looking to register his son for youth football, and maybe assist with coaching his son’s team. But the volunteer-starved organization quickly recruited him as a head coach.
And that day was the beginning of a 25-year journey for Anderson, who has since risen from coach to commissioner to serving for the past 15 years as president of an organization that has been around since 1976.
Anderson’s volunteer stint has been no easy feat for the time-crunched husband and father of two sons (now grown) who worked for 26 years as a state police officer and is active in his church.
Anderson says he was hooked after his son’s Ankle-Biter Redskins team (ages 7 and 8) won the championship that year. “It was a good experience for me the first time in,” Anderson remembers.
Anderson adds that what has kept him involved in the all-volunteer, non-profit youth athletic organization are the relationships he’s built over the years with players, parents and the community.
Anderson says the coaches become much more for many of the players, 30 percent of whom are African-American and Latino boys from single-parent homes.
“Coaches often drive some of the boys to and from games, contribute out of their pockets for kids from households with only one income and serve as mentors for boys whose moms are looking for their son to have that one-on-one mentoring with a male figure,” says Anderson.
The club has had its proud moments, including former players, Dexter McDougle, who was drafted into the National Football League by the New York Jets; and San Francisco 49ers Ahmad Brooks.
The club, however, isn’t without its challenges, declining membership and rising costs, and the need for more volunteers.
Safety, always a concern in any sport, has become an even bigger concern for football teams on all levels as the national spotlight continues to shine on the dangers of concussions. In conjunction with USA Football, of which the DCSC is a member, the club has adopted new standards for tackling and blocking through the “Heads Up” program. And Anderson says club equipment is now cycled out every two years instead for every four years.
Safety concerns may have parents seeking to involve their children in other sports, such as soccer. More parents also decide to focus on just one sport, many hoping to groom their son into the next superstar. Anderson says in the past, boys were more “multi-athletic” – moving from football to basketball to baseball as the seasons changed. The DCSC also is competing for players and resources with other youth football clubs in Prince William County.
And as always, volunteers are in short supply. Anderson, who now commutes to Maryland for a job with the Department of the Navy, understands. “This is a busy area and the commute doesn’t make things easy. I know there are people who want to, but just don’t have the time.”
Anderson has high praise for the volunteers who comprise the DCSC Board of Directors and Advisory Board, which includes wife, Veronica, who has served for many years as a cheer coach and Cheer Commissioner. The family affair continued with their sons, Cecil, Jr. and Courtney, and their wives, having all served as DCSC volunteers. And the Andersons’ grandsons and granddaughter also have played or cheered. The club also offers flag football.
“It takes a serious time commitment,” Anderson admits. “It’s demanding and there are no financial gains. But if the parents are willing to pay for this program, we are willing to provide that service.”