Warner Park Northside Purgolders have geared up for their 30th season. The organization is now being run by Steele Morton, who has ten years of coaching under his belt and is making the most of his new role.
“This is actually my first year running the program,” Morton said in a recent interview. “It’s a little new to me. We were kind of in flux under kind of unorganized leadership last year so we were struggling a bit. So I was voted in to kind of take over and get us back on track.” Morton said he loved his job as a coach, but his main goal now is to make sure the organization is in good standing for all the kids and their parents.
For anyone interested in getting their kids involved in the program, ages for both football and cheerleading start at kindergarten and run through eighth grade. The dates every year are normally the same, with the first practice being August 1st and the first game being the weekend before Labor Day. Practice runs about three weeks, then the organization holds a large scrimmage for all levels, inviting all the teams in the Dane County Area.
Warner Park is now associated with Madison’s East High School Purgolders, but when it was founded they were the Rams, then changed to the Cardinals back in the early 2000s. Since becoming affiliated with the high school, the organization has had the privilege of allowing their kids to experience those Friday Night Lights.
“We’re one of the few places that actually hosts night games so the kids can experience what it’s like to play under the lights at our own field,” Morton said.
Football is offered for kindergarteners through eighth graders, kindergarten through third being flag and fourth through eighth being tackle. The way the organization has decided to split the teams up is based upon grade, but also the number of kids playing.
“We just try to split it up so that the kids get as much playing time as possible. That’s kind of the most important thin,” Morton said. “It’s not necessarily winning games; we just want the kids to enjoy themselves and play as much as they can.”
As far as kindergarten through third grade, typically kindergarten and first play together and second and third will play together, since there aren’t as many kids at those age levels. When it comes to the fourth through eighth graders, those ages are divided by age as well but also it is broken down depending on how many kids there are; that way everyone gets to play.
Back in 2001, the club started up their cheerleading squads. Like the football teams, the age range for the cheerleaders goes from kindergarten through eighth grade.
“We partnered with East High School this year and their head coach Cassie Gallagher, and she’s just been doing a phenomenal job so now the girls are going to get to cheer at some of the high school games and they get to work with the high school girls and they’re really enjoying that,” Morton said.
As with all good coaches, Morton says he wants the kids to grow in their sport, but wants to make good people first.
“If there’s one thing in our Warner Park ‘Steeleosophy’ that we try and project it’s just that these young men need some form of discipline in their lives, you know?” Morton said. “They need somebody who they know is gonna be there for them all the time and somebody who’s gonna put them on the right path both on and off the field. Academics are very important to us; we try and do grade reports every year too. Just giving them a place where they can go after school, somewhere where their moms and dads can feel that they’re in a safe environment when they’re outside of the school setting. Good teamwork is really big for us and of course, we like to win games but we also like to teach the kids that it’s okay to have some failures and that you’ve got to be able face adversity head on. Building character and self esteem and personal confidence. A lot of our kids come from pretty difficult socioeconomic backgrounds and so just to be able to give them a place where they can feel safe and maybe have some fun for awhile is really why we like to do it.”
The Warner Park Purgolders have a full slate of games this weekend through October. The full schedule is available here.