“He Who Sows Bountifully…”
2017 was a banner year for UnFettered Athletics. With all of the incredible happenings I seemed to have lagged on the “Words by Coach Fetter.” I have some thought I’ve been working on, but upon the request of Mrs. Fetter, am reorganizing them for publication. Until then, here is a “year in review,” to hold you over.
We begin our calendar year in basketball season. We had 51 kids on 6 teams grades K-6. We were playing games from 9:00am to 3:00pm at 3-4 different locations. We were introduced to new players and families. We ended up with more players and larger rosters than anticipated. We feel so blessed that so many families hear about us and want to be a part of what we do. We love to use these challenges as opportunities for personal growth and to improve as an organization. We are extremely grateful to the families who support us and believe in what we do and the assistant coaches who make it possible to run all over town from game to game.
One particular special introduction was that of Heartland Christian School. We didn’t know how we would pay for the 400% increase in gym rental through Council Bluffs Community School District. Fortunately, through a mutual friend, Mr. Gray at Heartland Christian School allowed us to use their gym to practice at a more reasonable cost. It was very gracious of someone we hadn’t even met. We had no idea what would come of us finally meeting.
It was the end of basketball season and the beginning of baseball. It was actually the day of our final deadline for baseball registration. Mr. Gray was already impressed with the mess in the hall during our practice and its complete disappearance by the next morning. Now we would get to express our gratitude and share our heart. I think it went well. Following our meeting he emailed our baseball registration and we had 11 more kids sign up. Others approached us after the deadline, hearing about us from the internet, other organizations, friends, or a former Hustler deciding he did want to play after all, and once again we found ourselves with large rosters. We had 70 boys on 6 teams from tee ball to 14U.
Meanwhile, we were planning our first annual service project. This was something we had in mind for a while and just hadn’t yet executed. Another relationship we were able to form was with New Visions Homeless center, formerly MOHM’s place. We had 80 people volunteer that day. We made Easter baskets, helped at the thrift store, did work in the garden, and kitchen, and got to tour the facility and learn about their cause. It was an awesome experience and we even had people join us for their first time ever, before their baseball team even began practice. Once again, we were blown away by the response to who we are and what we do. We are very excited to see how this new tradition continues to grow.
Back to baseball; once again, we relied heavily on assistant coaches to help. Out of 6 tee ball games, I coached one inning. Mrs. Fetter ran the show from there, with the help of several assistants, some veterans and some new, and also grandparents, and our UnFettered family, to watch our children while we coached.
Our two machine pitch teams were able to play back to back allowing us more flexibility to be there and more flexibility with players and substitutions for absences. Our 10U and 12U teams had large rosters and veteran coaches to step up and help out and also new players/families who were very pleased with their first UnFettered experience. Our 14U team started with one former player deciding he wanted to play. We had no intention of coaching at that level, but we do not want anyone turned away. We recruited several former Hustlers in addition to adding some from Parks and Rec and other organizations.
The combination of players and coaches from different backgrounds, the age group of the boys, and the time with other teams, brought new challenges and incredible opportunities to live our mission. Many families got to experience UnFettered Athletics and get to know who we are, what we do, and why we do it. The entire baseball season was a great time of growth for us, not only in numbers, but personally and organizationally. We are extremely grateful for this integral part of the process.
Our next venture was our annual Storm Chasers outing. Every year our trip to Werner Park gets bigger and better. We had over 200 guests join us at the baseball game and so many kids taking the field that the staff didn’t know what to do with it. Baseball, hot dogs, tug o’ war, National Anthem, and so much more fun; it was the Best Time Ever!
Additionally, during the spring/summer, we had a number of Hustlers participate in First Christian Church’s Imagine Street Hockey League. We were also present for their All-Star game and end of season tournament and were able to let families know of our upcoming flag football season. This is another great relationship we are grateful to have formed and look forward to continued work with First Christian Church.
Come football season we had 115 kids on 16 teams in 4 different divisions, including a middle school division we had been working for since the beginning. Our league is different than others. Our mission and values guide us and our goals reach beyond the field of play. We were amazed, humbled, and grateful to see so many kids from so many different walks of life. We had youth from CBCSD, Carter Lake, Missouri Valley, Crescent, Home School kids, and of course Heartland Christian School.
It was an incredible season. There were plenty of new families and veteran Hustlers who got to experience the Hustler way, in addition to new coaches and more exposure. Our UnAthletics event was better than ever and featured a “Celebrity Team” from all over, including the YMCA, Nebraska Christian College, and of course our friends form Heartland Christian and First Christian Church. The very next day I received a call from John Knicely of Channel 6. Within a matter of weeks we were featured on WOWT’s Knicely Done segment (you can still find it on our website).
Of course football leads us right into basketball, and with the momentum and growth we had, we decided we were ready to run our own basketball league. We have 70 players on 12 teams. We put some work in on the floor at Heartland Christian and have been able to host our games and some practices there. It has been awesome to see the standing room only. Also, our games have been extremely competitive.
We also were introduced to Pastor Don Bates and able to use Lighthouse Temple for some practices. We are excited for this new relationship that is forming and always enjoy when they pop in to check out our practices.
One other addition this season has been that of cheerleading. Mrs. Fetter likes it more than me, but I am pleased that we are able to offer it. I’m happy with the results; the participation, the coaching, my involvement or lack thereof and very excited to take our cheerleaders to our upcoming tournament.
As I said, it has been a banner year. We are very humbled and pleased with what has been accomplished; both off the field and on it. However, we are not satisfied. We continue to Have Fun and Get Better. Along with feeling blessed we feel responsible. “Much will be required of everyone who has been given much. And even more will be expected of the one who has been entrusted with more.” I don’t know what to expect; but I know you won’t want to miss it.
We will change the world by using youth sports to positively influence the lives of children and families in our community.