The Optimist Youth Football program was born in Boise's Northend in 1949; playing out of Washington Park, 44 boys coached by Boise High School players and staff divided up to play each other. Since that time the Optimist Youth Football program has steadfastly adhered to a rather unique philosophy: there is no goal of sending a team to any regional or national championship; no traveling teams and paid coaching staffs; no All-Star teams; players do not try out and are not categorized as "major" or "minor".
Instead, Optimist teams are formed by neighborhoods according to the player's age, weight, and where they live. Teams are composed of players of different skill levels and abilities. They learn how to combine all these different abilities to form a team. Because all players are required to play a certain number of plays, it is in the team's best interest for everyone to work together to improve their skills. Once a player is on a tackle team, they will stay with that team for the entire four years they are in the tackle program. They not only grow up together, but they also form lifelong friendships. When a coach starts with a team, he also moves up with that same team for the full four years. Not only do the players and coaches have a long-term commitment to each other, but they also get the opportunity to set team and individual goals and then actually work on achieving them...together.
Another "unique" aspect to the Optimist Youth Football Program is its "needs based" financial aid program. We have a fund that numerous individuals have donated to over the years and that we annually contribute to and supplement it with the proceeds from the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl High School Challenge. With this fund, any youth who wants to play will get to play. We supply everything from registration and insurance, to all the equipment needed to play.
Today, the program includes flag football for boys and girls ages six to eight years old, full contact tackle for eight through thirteen years old, and since 2004, cheerleading for ages four through twelve. It serves the communities of Boise, Meridian, Eagle, Star, Kuna, Mountain Home, McCall, Emmett, Horseshoe Bend, Wood River, Marsing, Homedale, and Garden Valley. Since the program began it is estimated that over 50,000 children have played in the Optimist Youth Football program.
A lot of youth programs talk about teaching teamwork, sportsmanship, commitment and developing relationships. Optimist Youth Football actually does it. It is truly a "unique experience".
The Optimist Football Program is run by the Football Committee, a group of volunteers who answer to the Board of Directors of Boise Youth Sports Complex Inc.
The mission of the Optimist Youth Football program is to teach youth important life lessons while at the same time letting them have fun playing football. Since 1949 the Optimist Youth Football program has been touching lives, giving families and children a place to grow and learn together in an atmosphere of fun and football.
Optimist Football doesn't have tryouts, there are no players cut instead kids learn basic life skills with friends and neighbors. Buildings teams around the player's neighborhoods helps to build better football players and better people; if you can form a team of only the most talented players then they don't have to work as hard. Optimist teams are only as strong as their weakest link and must work together to get better…that is the mission of Optimist Youth Football.
The objectives of the Optimist Youth Football program are:
- To provide a wholesome, enjoyable experience of playing football for youths from ages 6 to 12 years of age, while teaching the basic fundamentals of the game, teamwork, good sportsmanship, discipline and response to leadership.
- To encourage the players to maintain satisfactory grades in school and to emphasize the importance of keeping a proper relationship and balance between scholastic and athletic endeavors. To provide a satisfying, rewarding experience for coaches, sponsors, and those persons administering the program through their relationships in teaching and working with youth.
- To provide a well organized and implemented program that is appreciated and favorably received by the parents and the community.