By Moana Uluave-Hafoka
Salt Lake City’s west side has arguably produced some of the most outstanding athletes in the state. And yet, many of these athletes have to travel miles to access facilities to match their talent. Consequently, many must trade their neighborhood identity for more known programs that offer far greater athletic and educational opportunities.
One such program has been football. For decades now, East and West little leagues have gained and groomed multiple generations of high school, college and even NFL players from the west side. If such athletes were coming out of the west side, and more specifically, the Glendale neighborhood, then why shouldn’t they have a team of their own? Some of that answer is due to socio-economic challenges many players and their parents face. Football provides a dual role: investment and risk. Many specifically Pacific Islander parents see their children’s football success as a way out of socioeconomic challenges. This is both a myth and a fact. Pacific Islanders are 28 percent more likely to play football professionally than any other ethnic group. http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/content/polynesian-nfl-players-pipeline-to-the-pinnacle-of-football/
And so, for decades many Pacific Islander parents in Salt Lake City have held to that myth, invested years of their limited resources and time so that their sons could play little league, high school, college and then the NFL (as seen in Football We Trust). For years now, the community has gotten accustomed to outsourcing their talent and travelling to other neighborhoods to play. There has never been a little league team in the neighborhood and not many have questioned that status quo.
Last year, a group of concerned parents recognized the gap and decided to fill it. Hence, the birth of the Glendale Griffins little league football program. Roxanne Langi, Executive Vice President stated, “there is no way my kids would be playing football before high school [without this league]. . .the league is low cost and close to home so boys can walk to practice.” She and other dedicated parent volunteers also suggest that the team fosters a positive neighborhood identity where the community steps in when parents can’t meet the costs.
However, the formation of the Griffins league has not been completely well-received in the neighborhood. Some have chosen to continue driving their children to long standing little league teams. And yet, this a good thing. It’s a great thing. Choices foster competition – competition not just on the field but in the costs that parents make in terms of time and money.
This fall will be the Griffins’ second year. They have four teams. That’s four more teams that didn’t exist in years past; four more opportunities for kids to play football in their own backyard; and four more times the chance of putting Glendale on the map.