One would hope that Carlos Honore has a phone plan that he's happy with, because his little black cell phone is constantly buzzing. Calls from players asking if practice is on after a early rain; parents wondering about the time of practice, even though it's always been 6 p.m.; community members looking to contribute; or a coach letting Carlos know he won't be making practice because his grandmother is ill.
It's no secret that Carlos and Tatum Honore didn't exactly know what they were getting themselves into when they started the Fifth Ward Saints football team. The hope was to provide a program for children, in an area of Houston that didn't offer much in terms of entertainment and distraction -- but it's proved to be quite a bit more.
"I knew what football did for me when I was young," Carlos says. "We hoped it would have an impact on a couple of these kids, we hoped to reach some of 'em."
Anyone who's played Pop Warner football or Little League sports is aware of the costs and time commitment. Especially football, with all the expensive equipment and sheer number of players. The two most expensive and essential pieces, the helmet and shoulder pads, combined can cost nearly $200 brand new. The Honores weren't looking for new equipment, they just needed something to keep the players safe. Early on, the majority of the cost was coming out of their pockets.
The equipment is much less important to Carlos and Tatum than building something the kids, coaches and parents could believe in, something they would embrace as their own. Something they could identify with and tell their friends about, especially when there wasn't much else going on around the Fifth Ward to keep the kids occupied.
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Reality is that without football, many of the Saints players would be spending their time on the streets. Roaming on bicycles or hanging out in groups, and in many instances, getting into trouble. Kids wander outside the gate of the field at E.O. Smith Education Center during the time the Saints are practicing. It's a daily reminder of the alternative, and the coaches make sure the players are aware of this.
But the Honore family, the coaches and the parents that help with fund-raising are only capable of doing so much. They need financial help to keep the program going. Most of the other eight teams in the Texas Football Association league that the Saints compete in have corporate sponsors. Carlos has ideas of what he'd like to do to improve the team (proper practice equipment) and experience for the kids (trips to play other youth teams in Louisiana), but he needs the funds to do so.
Family is topic that comes up often in sports. Teammates and coaches spend countless hours around one another and tend to grow close. They have a similar goal: the success of the team. With the Fifth Ward Saints, there's more that matters than the wins and losses, touchdowns and interceptions. They count on one another to get through the difficulties of life as it's presented in the Fifth Ward.
Residents insist that it's not entirely the negative environment its reputation presents, but it's also not the healthiest place to be a kid. Many of the coaches grew up in the area and, like Honore, know this football team is a chance for a better upbringing -- surrounded by people who care and the lessons football can teach. In many ways, the Fifth Ward Saints are a family of nearly 100. This week's feature story, "Fifth Ward Saints," tells their story.