By Ralph Echtinaw
The St. Louis High School football program is among five in the state to receive grants from the Detroit Lions Foundation this year.
The $32,500 grant dwarfs the football program’s annual budget of $5,800, and Athletic Director Bryan Anderson is not yet sure how to spend it. “We are evaluating how we will spend the money,” he said via email. “While a lot of it will go towards football equipment, money can also be used for weight room equipment as well. This is exciting as it will benefit the entire athletic program to make upgrades to our weight room.”
One thing is for sure. The grant will help the football program (and the athletic department in general) recover from a year in which the Wuhan virus limited participation.
“We didn’t have as much participation as we would have liked,” Anderson wrote in the grant application. “For instance, we were not able to offer a JV program and that certainly affected the development of our program. We didn’t have enough time in the weight room in order for our student-athletes to train and improve. We also missed out on opportunities to fundraise as we had plans that ultimately were halted by the pandemic. We didn’t have as many opportunities to build and strengthen relationships inside and outside of the program, and we are excited to move past the pandemic to address these concerns to build our program.”
Furthermore, Anderson told the Lions selection committee: “This would bring a lot of excitement to our program and gain interest from those that haven’t played in the past. This would be beyond just our high school program; we see this generating excitement all the way down to our youth program. St. Louis is a rural community, where most of our students are deemed at-risk. We also qualify for 100 percent free and reduced lunch. Opportunities like ‘Touchdown in Your Town’ would be a great boost for our community as a whole as we continue to foster values within our students such as teamwork, a hard work ethic and overall pride for the football program as well as the overall St. Louis community.”
Asked to describe the team’s current needs and challenges, Anderson wrote this in the grant application: “This would bring our team closer together. The pandemic halted what we were growing, and we could use a boost like this to grow together as strive for our program to be about We and not Me. While isolating and social distancing helped slow the spread of COVID-19, this has presented a great challenge for us to continue to develop our values that are critical to the development of our program. Our students may not understand how much they need the sport of football to ultimately help them become better fathers and husbands someday. Having support from a great organization like the Detroit Lions will be a blessing to this program!”
Anderson capped his grant application with this final paragraph: “Our coach was a college football player and can attest to the fact that football is the ultimate team sport. This grant would surely help as we instruct on the field, but it will greatly help us as we develop our young men and teach them how to work together to achieve success. Our coach has used the phrases ‘All In’ and ‘Build the Culture’ to strengthen commitment and find ways to integrate the community. We are asking you to consider being all in to support the St. Louis Sharks Football program.”
The Detroit Lions also gave money to football programs of Detroit Cody, Battle Creek, Bridgeport and Mt. Clemens high schools.