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Evanston Bulldogs are About More Than Football
On summer nights in Evanston, parents of children four to 12 years old know exactly where their children are. Most of the parents are with them at a Bulldog football practice.
Charles Smiley has children on two of the four teams. He says, The bulldog coaches are not parents, but part of the village that helps get kids raised.
When the team first started there were 11 players. Now there are two hundred children in the organization that includes cheerleaders. There are a lot of rules for volunteer coaches and players. Coaches cannot swear or demean a player. Players address coaches, parents and teachers with a yes maam or yes sir. Bulldogs are expected to work hard in school.
They learn respect and discipline, says Grandmother Marion Adams. She has grandchildren or nephews on all four teams and on the cheerleading squad. 12 year old Dontell Medallions been a bulldog since he was five.
We give respect to adults, and we look out for each other If someone is bullying someone, we say thats not cool.
Bulldogs founder Pastor Peterson Mingo says. Its not about win win win. They need a set of values to get along with each other and resolve conflict. We teach them to respect themselves and each other.
Some Bulldogs go on to bigger gridirons, such as Boston College middle linebacker Steve Daniel. Others didnt pursue football but are in college studying everything from engineering to teaching.
Most of the Bulldogs are from Evanston, but parents drive from as far away as Mt Healthy and Forest Park so their children can play on the teams. The Bulldogs play good football. Last year the four and five year olds came in second in the National championship game.
In Evanston they say once a Bulldog always a Bulldog. They are not talking about trophies earned, but life lessons learned.
The Bulldogs will be one of the teams playing in the Peace Bowl on Sunday. Teams from all over the city play each other all day to promote peace. In 2007 the games were stopped because of a murder a bloc away.
The Peace Bowl has returned every year since the the same South Avondale School Athletic Field.