In 2011 after several experiences with various baseball and tee ball leagues in the Council Bluffs, Iowa area we registered our son Bronx, then 6, for tee ball with the Council Bluffs Parks and Rec. Up to this point we had experienced disorganization from youth sports leagues and coaches as well as coaches taking little league too seriously and others who volunteered out of need with little to no knowledge of the sport. However, when we received an email from the Parks and Rec stating they were in need of coaches I said, “Not me, I’m too busy.” When we received a second email a week or two later I broke down and said, “Fine I’ll do it.” I don’t remember many details from that season but we must have had some success.
After the season we decided to register Bronx for flag football. This time it only took one email for me to agree to coach. Following flag football was basketball and by this point I was committed. I had begun to invite players, parents, and coaches to return to play with us season
after season and they continued to come back. When our next child, Ra J, began playing sports it was a no brainer that I would be coaching.
At some point in those first few seasons the photographers for the league had pressured me enough for a team name that I had to come up with something. I didn’t think too much of picking some sort of animal and I was never fond of borrowing a name from a professional or collegiate team because I thought we should have our own identity. That’s exactly what developed when we decided on, the Hustlers. Hustlers hustle, which means we play a sport in an alert and aggressive manner. This became our identity along with a team logo that was/is very recognizable and gets countless compliments.
Since that time we have continued to grow and the demand for our coaching has too. In the fall of 2014 and winter 2015 we had three flag football and basketball teams, one of which was made up completely from younger siblings of Hustlers and referrals, and had no children of our own on it. The summer of 2015 our next child, Hezekiah, began playing tee ball and we had three baseball teams at three levels, with 33 players and close to a dozen coaches many of whom helped on multiple teams. Our tee ball team had nine players all siblings or referrals and between parent volunteers and our junior coaching program (older siblings are encouraged to help) each position had its own personal coach.
In the fall of 2015 we were thrust to the next level when the Council Bluffs Parks and Rec decided they would not have a flag football league. Crystal, without hesitation, decided if they weren’t we would. We worked very hard organizing 66 players on nine teams. The feedback was overwhelming and we feel incredibly blessed by the success of our inaugural season and the lives we touched. Additionally, we added a fall fundraiser, the 'UnAthletics', where our coaches played a game under the Friday Night Lights. It was a blast and everyone enjoyed the event even though the game ended in a tie.
Our growth continued from there as we had 50+ kids on 6 teams for basketball and 4 teams at 4 levels in baseball in 2016. Throughout the years we've always looked for ways to improve and do things better. We added our own team photographer and Hustler Merchandise and our fall fundraiser continues to get bigger and better every year.
2017 was another banner year for UnFettered Athletics. That spring we had 80 volunteers at New Visions Homeless Services for our first ever service project. We grew to 6 baseball teams coaching youth from tee ball to 14U. We parlayed this to 115 flag football players on 16 teams at 4 divisions, including a middle school division that had been a long time in the works. We were featured on WOWT's Knicely Done segment with John Knicely. Following football we hosted our inaugural season of UFA Basketball with 70 youth from kindergarten to 6th grade on 12 teams. We also had our first season of UFA Cheerleading.
In 2019 we continued UFA Basketball with almost 100 boys from kindergarten to 8th grade playing on 15 teams. We anticipate another 100 participants on 9-10 baseball teams from tee ball to 14U, and we will likely have our largest service project, baseball outing, football season, and fundraiser ever.
As we continue to grow we are grateful for the incredible relationships we’ve developed with participants and families, other community organizations and businesses, vendors, sponsors, donors, volunteers, and so many more.We never imagined that one season of volunteering would grow into so much.We have always done our best to Hustle and will continue to Hustle so that we can UnFetter Our Potential and that of our participants. We are and will fulfill our mission: “to change the world by using youth sports to positively influence the lives of children and families in our community.”