A North Brooklyn sports group has been steadily recreating a neighborhood sports legacy that was alive and kicking in the 1970s.
The Greenpoint Spartans is a football club open to 7-14 years old in the neighborhood, and is now in the midst of its seventh season, having grown in popularity each year since its inception.
The club takes its inspiration from the Greenpoint Crusaders, a popular neighborhood youth football league in the 1970s. The new league is also played in the memory of the former coach of the Greenpoint Crusaders, Partrolman Steven Gilroy, who was shot to death during a store robbery in Bushwick in 1973.
The Spartans today are led by its President, longtime neighborhood resident Paul Wilson.
For Wilson, the mission of the program was not just fitness and fostering a love for football, but about bringing kids from different backgrounds together.
About half the students in the program live in public housing and three-fourths come from lower-income families.
“We want to hold students to higher standards in other aspects of life that go beyond what they do in school,” said Wilson. “This gives them a chance to work hard, to learn about making sacrifices, and to excel at something. To experience success or failure at a young age is an important teaching tool. We teach them accountability, responsibility, and how to be members of a team.”
When the Spartans first started in 2009, they had about 40 kids in the program and fielded two teams. This year they’re fielding three different teams – 7-8, 11-12, 13-14 year olds, and usually field a fourth team, but they didn’t have enough students for the 9-10 year old this year.
The Spartans hold their training sessions at McCarren Park, beginning in May. The first two months is followed by a more rigorous summer training session in July and August where students attend four sessions a week. The group competes in the NYC Football League, with the competition season kicking-off in September and ending around Thanksgiving.
The Spartans support themselves for the most part through fundraising efforts, but also receive support from the City Council. The registration fee is $150 for the entire season, and the league provides subsidies for students in need.
To learn more about the group, and to enroll visit https://www.facebook.com/pages/Greenpoint-Spartans/116976955020174.