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August 18, 2011
By DAVID REYNOLDS - Bulletin Sports Writer

After three years of flag football, Troy O'Dell and Ivan Hairston's children wanted a little something more out of their games.

Specifically, they were tired of waiting around for a chance to start hitting one another.

"They begged us to try to start a league," O'Dell said. "That's how the league came about, because the kids were tired of playing flag football."

Due to those requests, O'Dell and Hairston decided to found the Southside Youth Football League last year, a tackle league open to children in kindergarten through the fourth grade.

Last year's version had two teams composed of players from Martinsville and Henry County, and those teams played against each other and a team from Eden, N.C., at the Smith River Sports Complex (SRSC) and the Boys and Girls Club in Eden.

O'Dell said he hopes to have enough participants for three area teams this year, and the league is also adding a team from Danville into the mix. O'Dell said his team will also be competing with teams from Rockingham County, N.C., and Reidsville, N.C.

"Once they get their pads and helmets on, you can see their face light up," O'Dell said. "They really get into it once the pads are on."

In Southside Youth Football, there is no weight limit for defensive linemen, a difference between leagues set up by the Martinsville and Henry County Departments of Recreation. In those leagues, O'Dell said, players who weight more than a certain amount are only allowed to play on the offensive line.

Running backs are restricted to being 111 pounds and lighter in O'Dell's league, he said.

O'Dell anticipates 100 participants in the league this year, and he hopes to get enough kindergartners and first graders to separate them from the older and bigger third and fourth graders.

Last year the league had ‘fun quarters' for the smallest and youngest children in the league, but O'Dell would like to have full games instead of just ‘fun quarters' this season.

As with any contact sport, injuries are a risk. But last year, O'Dell said, all the injuries his players sustained were minor.

"Actually, we had no injuries, knock on wood, we had no injuries, no broken legs or arms or anything like that. As far as safety wise last year, it was really great," O'Dell said. "Some kids got hurt for a play or two or got hit real hard and got the breath knocked out of them, but that's to be expected."

If all goes to plan for O'Dell and Hairston, the other founder of the league, Southside Youth Football might have an effect on some high school fields on Friday nights before it's all said and done.

"My and Mr. Hairston's thinking is that our area seems to be way behind everywhere else. We haven't had a state championship football team here (in a long time)," O'Dell said. "I think that starting them young, the high schools will see the rewards of us starting this league once they get to high school, because they'll be playing for 7 to 10 years before they get to high school."

Registration for the Southside Youth Football League is held from 9 a.m. to noon every Saturday in August at the SRSC.

The cost is $50, and parents can also register their children during the first week of practice at the end of August and beginning of September.

For more information, contact O'Dell at 618-4143 or Hairston at 224-4799.