By Sheree Tait
Cin-City Gators 10u Youth Football team brought home 1st place from the D1 Nation National Youth Football Championships in Norcross, GA December 16-19, 2022 and multiple 1st place wins throughout the 2022 football season.
Originally the Avondale Eagles, the Cin-City Gators 10u is a local youth football team serving more than 300 youth from Avondale and its surrounding communities. They have won three OP league championships (state) and three national titles. Since 2015, the team, coached by father and son team, John & Jake Clifford, has been cultivating young men into phenomenal athletes while emphasizing education. “For the last 3 years, I have seen the coaches bring leadership qualities and confidence out in my son. He genuinely loves his coaches and they love him even more in return, said Sheena Anderson, team mom. Coach John and Coach Jake genuinely care about how my son is doing at home and especially at school. Coach John has even shown up to his school to check on his progress,” said Sheena.
John Clifford has been coaching for 33 years, bearing the cost of everything from equipment to uniforms to travel to avoid putting the burden on parents. “It takes a village to keep these kids together and that’s what me and my staff are all about. I love every kid and embrace them with wisdom and support beyond sports,” said Coach John. A modern day success story, the Gators have had a great season winning the league Super Bowl on November 19, the Brickhouse Classic in Destin, FL on November 26 (3rd year champions) and in December, winning 1st place in the coveted Annual D1 Nation National Youth Football Championships in Georgia.
The Gators had to move their practices due to gun violence around the parks. Giving the kids a safer place to practice also meant he had to change the team name and the Cin-City Gators were born. However, John having roots in Avondale, wanted to keep the games in his home neighborhood so he made South Avondale field the home field for the Gators. In 2021, the Bengals donated the funds to put a synthetic turf on South Avondale’s field, which helped the Gators who still use it as their home field. They practice at Withrow High School and play games at South Avondale. Since that investment the Gators have won 3 state championships, 3 national championships and now a national championship.
“I started the Gators in 2015,” said Coach John. “I had a vision for my organization. I wanted all the kids to be able to practice and have fun in a safe environment. It was a hard decision to leave the Avondale area especially when I was born and raised in Avondale or as the people would call me ‘A1 from Day 1.’However, my vision was so strong that I was not going to let these kids down due to the violence and crime rate in our neighborhood. This is when I changed the name from Avondale Eagles to the Cin-City Gators and moved our practices to Withrow High School. Thankfully, this move did exactly what I thought it would. I gained more kids and coaches in a safer environment. These kids are the future and I treat them all with love and respect. As I mentor them, I am teaching and encouraging them to be better citizens and to be productive in such a hard society. I have close to 300 kids in my organization, both girls and boys. It is my duty to make sure they get a fair chance at life while doing what they love—playing football and cheering. It truly takes a village to help keep these kids together, and that’s what me and my Cin-City Gators staff are all about. We love every kid and embrace them with wisdom and support not just in sports, but also to use their talents for an opportunity to further their education. Gator Nation for Life!”
To celebrate the students, staff and their accomplishments, the Cin-City Gators will have an awards gala on Sunday, February 19, at the Heat Event Center. To sponsor a child and/or make a donation to the Cin-City Gators program, please contact Crystal Russell at 513-535-9474. Donations can be sent via cash app at $Gators463. Add Cin-City Gators Support on the memo line or make checks payable to Cin-City Gators.