By Peyton Celesti | Sports Writer
PERRY HILLTOP — Audie Chapman is now in his third season as executive director of the Northside Youth Athletic Association (NSYAA) football teams ranging from ages 5-14, nicknamed the Steelers. But under Chapman, the NSYAA is more than football.
For the first practice of the year on July 11 at Fowler Field, Chapman decided to start the season on a different note than usual. He brought in Pastor Michael Day of Legacy International Ministries to pray over the season with parents, coaches, players and cheerleaders.
“I’m a faith-based person and I try to bring the morals and ideals of Christianity as a leader,” said Chapman, who helped create the NSYAA with his best friend in 2011. “It’s important that everyone is growing spiritually and also having the wellness of being together.”
According to Chapman, there are around 150 boys and girls signed up for this impactful program. There are five different football and cheerleading age groups (divisions): Baby Twerps (5-6), Twerps (7-8), Termites (9-10), Mighty Mites (11-12) and High School Prep (1314). The head coaches for the five football teams are Rob Fairiror (Baby Twerps), Dwayne Todd (Twerps), Tone Caldwell (Termites), Rell Glenn (Mighty Mites) and James Caroline (High School Prep). The cheerleading director is Lateia Eubanks.
Along with running the NSYAA, Chapman is also vice president of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Youth Athletic Initiative (SPYAI), which the Northside Steelers participate in. Chapman reported that there are three new organizations joining the SPYAI this season, which means there are now eight teams in each division. This new competition for the Steelers sets up a format in which the top six teams per age group in the regular season make the playoffs.
The Northside Steelers schedule has 10 regular season games — five home and five away — with all home games played at Oliver Stadium. The home schedule has homecoming and senior days along with an alumni day, which is similar to how a high school football schedule is set up. The Steelers open the season at home on Aug. 5 vs. East End, and close it with senior day on Oct. 9 vs. Homewood. The homecoming and alumni day games are Sept.16 (Week 7) vs. Garfield and Sept. 24 (Week 8) vs. The Kingdom, respectively. All home games start with the Baby Twerps first at 9 a.m.
For the homecoming games, one football player and one cheerleader from each age group are crowned homecoming king and queen for raising the most money for the organization. Alumni day recognizes former athletes who were part of the NYSAA, and senior day is to recognize high school prep players and cheerleaders who are in their last year of the program.
With day one of football practice just beginning, Chapman had an optimistic outlook on all of the teams, but is most confident that the Mighty Mites will make a lot of noise this season.
“The Mighty Mites are the nucleus of our organization,” he said. “A lot of those kids have been playing together since they were four (years old) and are coming of age.”
Chapman, who his players call “Coach Ace,” wanted to share a message through The Chronicle to all of the athletes.
“Never underestimate the power of hard work,” Chapman said. “Success is not handed out; it is earned through countless hours of sweat, sacrifice and self-discipline. Train when others rest, practice when others give up, and strive for excellence when others settle for mediocrity. Your dedication will set you apart from the crowd and propel you toward your goals. Good luck this season!”