I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Ryan Hamilton, co-founder of the Smith Mountain Lake Crusaders, and hear all about this exciting new youth program!
Having retired from the Air Force in 2018, Ryan moved to the lake with his wife Lacey and their six children. Bringing with him a lifelong passion for both football and coaching, he soon noticed a void in the area sports offerings. Not stopping at the concept of simply forming competition teams, however, he desired to see a program that would also include a symbiotic relationship with the community-at-large and place a heavy emphasis on youth character development outside of the sports arena. His military tours overseas inspired him to be intentional about spending his time and energy on the things that are closest to his heart once he returned home, and his job at WVA Steel affords him the flexibility to build this passion-project organization from the ground up.
Enter: The Crusaders.
Part of the SWVA AYF league (which encompasses teams in the geographical area between Roanoke and Lynchburg), they are set to kick off their first full season in 2023 with football teams and cheerleading squads for ages 5-12. Both disciplines will be open to interested boys and girls, and Ryan emphasizes that scholarships will be available to those in need.
In the meantime, The Crusaders are focusing on building their community support base, finding interested sponsors and donors, and launching their extra-sports program: The Crusaders Club. This branch of the organization has a focus on community service and is open now for registration. During the interim 2022/2023 season they also plan to hold sports clinics for interested young athletes.
Stay tuned to their Facebook page for information on a big June kickoff they have planned! Facebook is also a great way to get in touch with the Hamiltons if you'd like more information on getting involved.
cont'd from the e-journal:
The base framework to get this Youth Association off the ground is already in place and mobilized. Consisting of a board of directors, parents, local businesses, and founding members, The Crusaders Club has been busy making its mark in and around Smith Mountain Lake.
So, how can you be involved?
Funding: still looking for both private donors and sponsoring businesses
Mentors: for both the youth and the team coaches (retired football staff...this could be a great fit for you!)
Spreading the word!
Ryan would also love to know if you hear of needs in the community that The Crusaders Club might be able to mobilize some volunteer hours toward!