More than just a game

The Donaldsonville Youth Tigers football program is the city’s oldest recreational league team.

Down in south Louisiana, most boys are introduced to the sport of football before they can barely crawl. In Donaldsonville, it’s no different. After learning to crawl and walk, boys are introduced to the basics of football, and with men like Spencer Harvey and Percy Cargo, Sr. around you better believe they’ll learn it the right way.

Harvey and Cargo have been coaching the Donaldsonville Tigers Youth football teams for over 25 years respectively, and have seen some of their athletes go on to the NFL. Before all of that though, the coaching duo just teaches the basics of life and football.

“We try to mentor the kids from a parent standpoint and a leadership standpoint,” Cargo said, who coaches the 11-12 year-old group. “We try to teach them right from wrong and use football as a mentor program.”

Along with teaching the kids how to be productive citizens, the Cargo and Harvey make sure the young athletes know the importance of playing the game the correct way, especially when it comes to contact. With more studies being done on concussions from football-related injuries, Harvey said knowing how to play the game at an early age is very important.

“The coaches don’t have a whole lot of time to work on it in the 5-6 and 7-8 year-old division, so it’s very important to teach it at the 9-10 division,” Harvey said who coaches the 9-10 year-olds. “Once the kids get to the 11-12 year-old division, the game gets tougher, so have to start off hitting the dummy bag - something that won’t move - and teaching stances because if we don’t get those things down it’s hard to do anything else.”

The Tigers organization has been around for over 40 years, and Harvey said even he was a beneficiary of the program. It wasn’t until recent, though, that the team changed its name from the Redskins to the Tigers. The name-change affected the program initially, but Harvey said the Tigers have reached good numbers again with about 25 players in each age division.

Cargo said he and Harvey are just trying to keep something positive going for the kids and “make sure they have something to do besides walk the streets. “

“When we save the kids the community is saved,” Cargo said.

Harvey added it really doesn’t matter whether the teams win or lose; it’s just about making sure the kids learn the fundamentals of the game.

“That way when the go to the middle school they have those things in place.”

However, knowing the fundamentals of the game has landed the Tigers in the league’s playoff every year. Harvey said the success is great, but he gets the most of the program in the later years.

“I enjoy seeing kids I coached grow up walking with their wife and kids and say hey coach, thanks for what you did for me,” Harvey said.