Emerging as an alternative to association football are the Tri-City Tigers – an AAU football organization based out of Chesterfield County and the surrounding areas for players ages 5-14 – whose team leaders are currently searching for players.
Under Virginia’s Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), which provides exceptional players suitable competition throughout the Commonwealth, the Tigers’ mentality is simple: “To get better you have to play better talent,” said Tigers co-founder, coach and former semi-professional football player Daniel Bedford.
“The [recreation] leagues are for those kids who really just want to participate – and that’s great, they have a great premise and they do a great job with that,” Bedford said.
“AAU is for the kids who have excelled and really do stand out and above everybody else. And a lot of the coaches in [recreation] leagues may not have played football, which is fine, but a lot of AAU coaches actually played the sport, excelled at it, and probably played the sport at a high level.”
Five teams comprise the organization, one for age 6, 8, 10, 12 and 14, each carrying a “U” (and under) to emphasize that young players are eligible to play on older teams.
“We’re trying to help the Richmond/Chesterfield area produce better athletes,” Bedford said. “Our goal, for one, is to make a better player and make better students out of our student-athletes. It’s important for a young player to get exposure, learn more about the game and know how to handle themselves.”
Bedford said the organization expects players to work on leadership on and off the field: they must maintain a B average in school and have consistent involvement in community service.
Anthony Jackson, training director for the Tigers, has been coaching for almost 12 years and is a former player at Virginia State University. Jackson, who played semi-professionally, is taking on the responsibility of advancing the Tigers’ speed, agility and overall understanding of the game.
“We want to bring more out of the kid,” said Jackson. “We want them to not just be on the field, we want them to be taught how the game is meant to be played. But also its’ not just about the sport itself; it’s about them learning and enjoying it.”
According to Bedford, the team has had some trouble finding a field to call home in Chesterfield County; so they’ve searched on the other side of the James River, going with Richmond’s Thomas Jefferson High School.
“Chesterfield sponsors the Chesterfield Quarterback League (CQL) and they said they have to wait till they find out what the CQL schedule would be before they could offer us any fields,” he said. “But they know when they are going to have their fields open pretty much.”
Monday, Aug. 1 marked the first day of practice for the Tigers, but there are many spots left to fill before each team’s roster is complete: eight spots on the 14U team and seven spots on the 6U. However, Tigers’ coaches are accepting all players under 10 years old because they are looking to develop young players as early as possible.
For players older than 10, the Tigers go about player evaluations a bit differently. “If they have a decent amount of talent and they have some football experience, and they’re 10 years old, then we can work with them,” said Bedford.
To play this fall for the Tigers, the price is $195 for each child, which covers all equipment, some workout clothes, bags, and even insurance. Discounts will be given to families with more than one child playing in the organization.
Families interested in joining the Tigers can before Oct. 25 when roster’s officially close.
For more information or to sponsor the Tigers, visit www.tricitytigers.org  or call Daniel Bedford at 415-8281.