For decades, it’s been the place to be on Saturdays — for hundreds of players, cheerleaders, coaches and spectators.
The Lutz Chiefs, celebrating the league’s 40th year this season, has offered boys and girls a chance to play and an opportunity to develop their athletic skills, whether it be as football players or as cheerleaders. The league’s cheer squads and teams are open to children ages 5 through 14.
The league also has contributed to the sense of community that Lutz enjoys, as parents on the sidelines get to know other parents, and players get to know children from different schools who compete on the same teams.
On Sept. 29, the league is hosting a reunion for Chiefs alumni, which they’re dubbing “The Greatest Show on Turf.” The event begins with games starting at 9 a.m., a varsity game at 3 p.m., and a Family Food and Fun Fest, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. The event take place at Oscar Cooler Sports Complex, 656 W. Lutz Lake-Fern Road in Lutz.
The league also is hosting a Great Gatsby Gala on Oct. 5, at Cheval Country Club, intended to raise money to pay for a shade cover for the bleachers — so spectators can be more comfortable while watching their children or grandchildren play, said Amy Lancaster, Lutz Chiefs director.
The league was established in 1978 and, since then, the football teams have won more than 19 different Super Bowl Titles, and the cheerleaders have won 17 different league titles, Lancaster said.
The league’s home is the Oscar Cooler complex — named for the man who attended hundreds of meetings of the Hillsborough County Commission to persuade commissioners to buy an orange grove so the community could build itself a place for youth sports.
Over the years, the complex has evolved and improved, but the community spirit that created it so many years ago remains intact.
There are some families who have been involved with the Lutz Chiefs for generations.
“Right now, we have a coach that coached in the ’80s. He’s now helping his son coach his grandson,” Lancaster said. “So, we have three generations on the field.”
Currently, there are around 140 kids involved, between football and cheer. Plus, there are about 40 volunteer parents and coaches, she said.
But, it’s not just about football and cheerleading, Lancaster said.
“We’re making young men and women. It’s not just about the sports. It’s about cultivating character and commitment to something, and (to) our community,” the director said.
There’s a sense of connection and camaraderie, Lancaster added.
“I was at Publix (on Lutz Lake Fern and North Dale Mabry Highway) the other day. It felt like half our team was there,” Lancaster said.
Stacy Turk, who grew up in Lutz, said that the league’s longevity speaks well for it.
Her family is heavily involved in the program.
Her daughters, 11-year-old Taylor and 9-year-old Tylar are cheerleaders. Her 6-year-old son, Porter, plays flag football and her husband, Jason, is the head coach for flag football.
Turk said she genuinely loves The Lutz Chiefs because of the outpouring of love that coaches display, and because of the structure the league provides for youths.
“It’s awesome to see the compassion that these coaches, on the field — whether it’s cheer or football — have for their players,” Turk said. “My kids look forward to going.”
The Lutz Chiefs was associated with the Pasco Police Athletic League for nearly 30 years before joining the Tampa Bay Youth Football League in 2010.
Over the years, it has helped prepare young athletes, who have gone on to play at the high school, college and National Football League levels.
The Greatest Show on Turf
When: Sept. 29, games beginning at 9 a.m.; varsity game at 3 p.m.; followed by a Family Food and Fun Fest, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Where: Oscar Cooler Sports Complex, 656 W. Lutz Lake-Fern Road in Lutz
Details: All Chiefs alumni are encouraged to show up to celebrate the program’s 40th anniversary. There will be games to watch, reunions among old friends and a good old-fashioned sense of community.
Great Gatsby Gala
When: Oct. 5 from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Where: The Cheval Country Club, 4312 Cheval Blvd., in Lutz
Details: The Lutz Chiefs will host a Great Gatsby Gala, to celebrate its 40th year as part of the community. There will be an open bar, silent auction, live music, hors d’oeuvres and dinner. There are three ways to help: be a sponsor, participate with goods or services, or attend the gala.
Cost: Tickets are $75 per person or $125 for a couple. Proceeds will go toward the purchase and installation of shade covers for bleachers.
Info: Email . Tickets: Call Stacy Turk at (813) 732-8170.
Published September 26, 2018