Spreading Their Wings
Young athletes grow as individuals and team players with Del Norte Nighthawks Youth Football & Cheer. The recreational league is dedicated to fostering a safe, positive environment where ages 5 to 14 have fun learning the fundamentals of football and cheer – as well as the principles of hard work, community involvement, integrity, scholarship, and sportsmanship that will serve them in all areas of life. As the league gets ready for another season of growth, 92127 Magazine spoke with Executive Vice President Kristine Hunt about what’s in store for players and parents. Read along to see how Nighthawks are taking flight.
Q&A with Executive Vice President Kristine Hunt
What is the history behind Del Norte Nighthawks Youth Football and Cheer (DNYFC)?
DNYFC was established in 2009. We were the 4S Falcons for a couple years before that, becoming Del Norte Nighthawks when the high school opened. Our motivation behind starting our league, which is part of American Youth Football (AYF), is to provide a safe, fun learning environment for boys and girls in our community to be a part of a team, to learn life skills, and grow as an individual, as well as a teammate.
How has DNYFC evolved over the years?
We have evolved from a start-up youth program in the beginning, offering AYF football and cheer in a land of mostly Pop Warner, to an ever-growing youth football and cheer organization, with both flag and tackle football as well as cheerleading. As we go into our current fall season, we are bringing in kids from Escondido and surrounding areas in an effort to expand in North County. Stay tuned for more information on our growth!
When does the season begin, and what programs are offered?
Our fall season of flag football, 11-man tackle, and cheer began with conditioning in late July. Our first season game is mid to late-August. Our seasons consist of eight regular season games, usually one preseason game or scrimmage, and playoffs, depending on how well each team does during the regular season. If a team wins all playoff games, they compete in the Q-Bowl, which is our local final competition. The winner at each level goes on to play at Nationals. Nationals can be in various locations, usually in Orlando, FL. We also offer a spring eight-man tackle football and cheer program, which is geared more toward developing the skills of our players and teaching the fundamentals of the game.
“My favorite memories with DNYFC are going to competitions! I have learned a lot of cheer skills, like being a base in a stunt, but my biggest lessons have been learning to work as a team to accomplish a goal.”
– Ceri Majalca, Cheer 10U, Fall 2016
What ages and abilities can participate in the league?
We are a recreational youth league, offering football and cheer to kids ages 5 to 14 years old. We are part of San Diego American Youth Football and Cheer. There are 20 leagues within SDYFC, with two divisions, the American league and the National league. Del Norte Nighthawks are part of the American League. The only requirements for playing with us are that you have a valid physical, contract, and other paperwork on file and the willingness to learn and have fun.
Can you provide a breakdown of the divisions offered?
We offer flag football for boys and girls, ages five to seven years old. We offer tackle football to boys and girls, ages 8 to 14, and cheer is open to boys and girls as well, ages 5 to 14. Our tackle divisions are Tiny Mite-8U, Mitey Mite-9U, Junior Pee Wee-10U, Pee Wee-11U, Junior Midget-12U, and Midget-14U.
What is your role with DNYFC? How did you first get involved?
I am currently the vice president, and I joined the board of directors in January 2012. I served a two-year term as VP, then stepped in to fill the secretary position for a year, and came back to the VP position in 2015. My term will be up in December of this year. I first got involved in the league when my daughter, Elise, came over from Poway Pop Warner with her cheer coach in 2009. My son began playing with DNYFC in 2010 as a Mitey Mite. He is the longest-playing kid in our league. When several board members quit the board for various reasons in 2011, I was nominated to join the board. I was voted in as vice president in October 2011.
What is DNYFC’s overall mission?
Our mission statement: It is the mission of the Del Norte Nighthawks to provide a safe and positive environment to teach the fundamentals of the sports of football and cheer. In doing so, the association and its members will instill in each participant the principles of dedication, hard work, community, honesty, scholastic achievement, teamwork, and sportsmanship.
“The thing I learned was no matter if we win or lose, I will still go off the field remembering that I tried my hardest.”
– Jamie Hunt, Midget Team, Fall 2016
Tell us about your coaching staff and their professional background. What does the hiring process entail?
Our coaching staff is made up of men and women who care deeply about the players, as well as the families, of those they coach. Our coaches have various professional backgrounds such as former and active military, CEOs, NFL players, directors in Fortune 500 companies, lawyers, business owners, pastors, etc. They are committed to growing each player on and off the field. Our coaches go through comprehensive training courses and extensive background checks in order to be part of the coaching staff at any level. All coaches and board members must apply to our current board and be approved before being allowed in contact with the boys and girls of our league. Also worth noting, many of our coaches do not even have kids in our league. They help because they love it and want to help make a difference in these kids’ lives.
What can participants expect?
If you play with Del Norte Nighthawks, you can expect to have fun, learn to play the game, and become a better person, both on and off the field. We strive to make respectful young men and women of integrity who will better the lives of those they encounter, whether at home, in school, or in the community.
What do participants enjoy about DNYFC?
A few reasons kids enjoy being part of Del Norte Nighthawks Youth Football and Cheer are the competition, the camaraderie, the encouragement to be the best student and person they can be, and self-confidence. I have seen so many boys and girls come so far because of their experience with DNYFC.
Can you tell us about any standout moments from last season?
Our number of Little Scholars! Little Scholars are players within our league who maintain a GPA of 95 percent and higher during the entire school year. We had the most Little Scholars of any league within our conference last year. Three of our Little Scholars won prizes during the award ceremony in March this year. That is a proud accomplishment!
We also had a team of players, many of whom have never played football before and several who played up from the eight-year-olds to our Mitey Mite team, lead by Coach Terrell Anders. They won several games last season, but the growth the kids made as a team was incredible to see. They really learned to come together as a team, to support each other and work together to win. They will be something to watch when they get to high school!
Another standout is our spring senior team. They were made up of eighth graders who played their last youth football game in April. While we are sad to see them go, we look forward to watching them as they move on to the high school teams in our community. They made it to playoffs for the last four consecutive years.
Can you highlight upcoming significant dates?
Upcoming this season are our golf tournament, which is scheduled for Sept. 16 at Carmel Mountain Country Club and is open to anyone over 18 years old. Information for that is on our website. We also participate in the Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast on Saturday, Sept. 3, in RB. We have tickets available for $6. If you are interested, please email us. And, of course, our local cheer competition in October. Most information for that is also available on our website.
Does DNYFC hold any fundraisers throughout the season?
We have various fundraisers throughout our seasons, none of which are mandatory. They include a golf tournament, pancake breakfast, walk-a-thon, carnival-type fair, discount cards, and dine-outs at local restaurants. Our cheerleaders go above and beyond to help raise funds to go to regional and national competitions, which are not funded by our registration fees.
For those interested in volunteering, how can they get involved?
Anyone interest in volunteering should contact one of our executive board members for more information. We are always looking to add qualified people to our Nighthawk family.
What are your long-term and short-term goals?
As an example of our positive impact, we are expanding into North County. We have been approached by teams in Escondido, and they will be joining our Nighthawk family this season. We are just growing stronger! We are really excited to see the positive feedback that has been coming in regards to adding Escondido to our football and cheer family. We eagerly anticipate more areas in North County to join us the coming years, including Poway, RB, Ramona, San Marcos, and Vista.
What is the most exciting aspect about being part of DNYFC?
The most exciting aspect of being part of Del Norte Nighthawks is seeing the growth and maturity of our players. Whether they win or lose, our kids have fun and they become stronger students and kids of integrity. I am so proud to be a part of watching these kids grow up.
At-A-Glance | Kristine Hunt
Name: Kristine Hunt
Position within DNYFC: Executive Vice President
Community: 4S Ranch for five years
Education: Currently finishing college degree
Family: Married with two girls and two boys, ages 21, 17, 16, and 13
Hobbies & Interests: Reading, traveling, and watching football. My favorite teams are the Del Norte Nighthawks and the New Orleans Saints!
At-A-Glance | Del Norte Youth Football and Cheer
Name: Del Norte Nighthawks Football & Cheer
President: Chuck Dilts