There was excitement and high energy surrounding New Mexico Pop Warner football in its inaugural year during the months of January and February.
But then came March and the coronavirus pandemic that shut mostly everything down, including youth sports.
“We were going 150 miles per hour, and then since March 17 we’re just puttin’ along now,” said Abby Vigil, NM Pop Warner’s secretary. “Families registered prior to COVID-19. Now that COVID-19 has hit there’s definitely some reluctance. We’re hitting some financial issues from some families. We’re having some families that don’t know if we’ll have a season in the fall, so they’re reluctant to register.”
Tim Patel, NM Pop Warner’s president, estimated there are about 500 who have registered to play football in the fall, and they are halfway toward meeting a goal of 1,000 kids in the new youth football organization.
NM Pop Warner, which includes football and cheer for children ages 5-16, has had to cancel some in-person registration events and spring camp.
NM Pop Warner is scheduled to begin practice Aug. 1 to prepare for the fall with its first game on Sept. 5. Of course those dates are depending on what the public health order will be, Patel said.
“Whatever the state comes out with, we are prepared for that,” said Patel, who has two sons, Rohan, 9, and Aryan, 6, in Pop Warner. “If we have to have a shortened season we are prepared for that. We’re preparing for multiple scenarios, as well as a full-out closure of it.”
Patel said there haven’t been any refunds requested due to the coronavirus pandemic, but both Patel and Vigil noted that many families have been effected financially because of their employment situations.
Last week, NM Pop Warner organized a popcorn fundraiser to produce scholarships for several children. In four days, NM Pop Warner raised $9,695 with Damion Sanchez from Los Lunas as the top seller at $1,870, and Antonio Aragon from Belen No. 2 at $1,585.
Patel remains hopeful there will be a season, as he follows the lead of national and regional representatives of Pop Warner.
Pop Warner’s Southwest Region has been excited to add New Mexico, said Patel, who has been a part of the process since December. He said the organization’s focus on academics is very beneficial to youth.
Vigil, who has three sons in Pop Warner, also values the organization. She hasn’t been totally frustrated with all that has happened in NM Pop Warner’s first year.
“It’s definitely made our inaugural year a challenge, but if we can get through this I think we’ll come out stronger on the other side come 2021,” Vigil said. “It’s just a matter of getting through COVID-19. And every curve ball that is thrown our way, it’s just a matter of getting through all of it.”