Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

This Team Is 12-1 and More

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

This Team Is 12-1 and More

Article excerpt

A SEMIPRO FOOTBALL TEAM disguised as an effort to help young men develop their lives?

Or a program to help young men develop their lives disguised as a semipro football team?

That was my question for Lee Brown, coach of the St. Louis Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs are a Mid-Continent Football League team, part of a 24-team minor league that spans 19 cities and eight states in the United States and Canada. Members of the team range in age from 18 to 24.

Brown's answer to my question made it clear: "We use football to attract people. We know that if we just said, `Come and take the ACT study course,' few people would show up."

The team is geared toward young athletes who weren't able to go to college because of financial difficulties or inability to get good test scores. The Bulldogs focus not only on athletics but on helping young men shape their lives.

"We try to get them involved as much as possible to develop them as total people and give them life skills," says Brown, 32. "Everyone doesn't mature at the same rate. We use football to help them develop skills that they'll need to make them total people."

Those skills include such things as parental responsibility, resume writing and proper eating habits. The team empasizes getting players into college and keeping them there. The Bulldogs offer a loan fund; that fund enjoys a 97 percent payback rate.

The team also has a fund for giving grants for college, after which the students are monitored to make sure their education is going well. The team also offers scholarships for those who need them for college. Four players will use Bulldogs college scholarships this fall.

Other than that, the players get no pay. The Bulldogs are a non-profit organization.

Of the team's nine coaches, seven have undergraduate degrees, two have master's degrees, one is a chief of police, one is a financial adviser, three are schoolteachers and one works for a financial planning firm.

In addition to gaining life skills, players give their time for community service projects, including visiting hospitals, reading to children and mentoring other young men.

All that, and they're good players, too. …

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