At VCU, the opportunity to play organized football doesn’t present itself very often.
So last November, junior James Tait decided he wanted to change that by creating a club football team.
Tait worked endlessly to get the team together, gathering sponsors, a coaching staff and even going to the alumni office for donations. The team now has a full roster, a schedule, uniforms and a legitimate practice location at Petronius Field on Idlewood Avenue.
Practices have not only been a place for the team to sharpen its skills, but bond as well.
“Practices have been the best team builders where we all get to know each other,” Tait said. “I think the comfort level is there on both sides.”
Vice president Jules Charles feels the same way.
“All of the coaches have adapted to us players in one way or another, and vice versa,” Charles said. “With each practice, we the players get to learn more about the coaches and their personalities and playing style.”
Leading a six-man coaching staff, head coach Alfonso Bell is extremely dedicated to the program. According to his calculations, he commutes about 50 miles three days a week. Bell, who was the former head coach at Cumberland County High School for 11 years and coached there a total of 21 years, does not mind the commute.
“I talked it over with my wife and she knew that I wanted to get back into coaching. We made some adjustments with our schedules and it has been working out for both of us,” Bell said.
With just a dozen practices under their belt, Bell seems anxious to see the product on the field.
“We are as ready as you can get with only 12 practices before the first game,” Bell said. “The guys have done really well picking up our playbook so far.”
Bell and the team hope those long hours of hitting, sprinting, throwing and catching will all be worth it.
“I am very excited to see our product on the field,” Tait said.
Charles and the rest of the team agree.
“I can’t wait to hit somebody on the field. With all the support from our fans, that will give extra fuel to battle through the game,” Charles said.
He adds that support is essential to the team’s morale. They expect to see a decent crowd at their first game.
“We will all be proud to be out on that field,” Charles said.
A year ago, no one at VCU would have thought a former football player would want to play again.
“Most of these young men had given up football when they came to VCU,” Bell said. “Now that they have a chance to play again, you can see the excitement in their eyes.”
VCU’s Club Football team takes on Radford University this Saturday at 1 p.m.
Photos by Chris Conway