Okmulgee Junior Football League
Recently, I was asked to speak at the Okmulgee Junior Football League’s banquet, marking the end of their season and celebrating the players and their families for all the hard work and dedication they showed throughout. When Collis Jones, longtime coach and fundraiser, contacted me, he said, “I usually have athletes come speak to the kids, but this year I wanted business men and community leaders.” (Collis, why are you assuming I’m not an athlete? Wait - actually, I’m not, so no offense taken!)
I’m overwhelmed by how much this program supports and encourages the children in our community. For years (I believe the Junior Football League has existed for 28 years total) the league has done much more than just give kids something to do besides watch TV or play video games in the evenings. Boys and girls in 4th-6th grades are not only provided the opportunity to learn the sports of football and cheerleading, but also the opportunity to learn about character and to grow in personal confidence. This year the OJFL even added a third grade team!
One of things that most impressed me is the number of volunteers who coach and support these teams. Each grade has an array of volunteers who are all excellent at what they do for the kids. Most are adults who work full-time jobs, then head over after work for 2-3 hour practices 4 days a week. The leadership and culture of the teams really stands out. It’s something our community needs to support. In fact, I think it’s teaching these young children what community really means.
At the heart of the program, and leading the way for the past two and a half decades, is the Jones Family. Vickie, Collis, and Ronnie (along with other family members and numerous volunteers) are doing an INCREDIBLE job with this program. They work tirelessly at fundraising to keep the cost to parents for this program low. They inspire the kids to become not only better athletes, but better people. I spoke with my friend, Tyler Murray, about his fond memories of being a team player under Coach Ronnie Jones and Coach ‘Cookie’, which is what the kids call Collis. Tyler emphasized to me how important character development is to the coaches. He told me they don’t put up with much, and if you play on their team you’re going to grow a lot just by being in that type of atmosphere.
In high school, I was in band and competed on academic teams, but never played many team sports growing up. However, I know the lessons these children learn as they participate will serve them for the rest of their lives. I was thrilled to speak to them, and invited my trainer and coach, Chris Summers (owner of the new Justice Fit gym downtown) to speak with me. We talked about the importance of having Jesus Christ at the heart and center of everything you do, and how the real key to success is learning that it should be defined as following Jesus. The entire evening as I watched them give awards to the young athletes and brag about them I was so impressed. I’m proud to say that, from what I witnessed, the importance of good character, love, and developing healthy relationships is being modeled to these kids each day in the Junior Football League. It’s a wonderful program within our community that I hope many will be encouraged to support.
Richard Larabee is an Okmulgee downtown resident. He serves as Okmulgee City Councilor for Ward #3, and he is the current President of Main Street. He is an Independent Petroleum Land-man, a Small Business Merchant Consultant, and one of the owners of The Lokal Okmulgee, a destination coffee shop in our core business district downtown. Richard is also the Senior Pastor of Together Church, which currently meets at The Lokal on Sunday mornings at 11am! If you’d like to talk with Richard about a concern in our community, need small business advice, or have questions about your oil and gas mineral rights, give his office a call today at 918-645-3161! #OkmulgeeRising #TellingOurStory