The rain was heavy and persistent on Saturday morning, but it didn't stop Kansas City Chiefs' kicker Harrison Butker from showing up for a dozen young athletes at the YMCA Challenger Sports Complex for a major announcement.
These kids were here for the YMCA's first NFL FLAG football match of the spring, and Butker – alongside two Chiefs Cheerleaders and KC Wolf – was on-site for the unveiling of Chiefs-sponsored jerseys for each of the kids.
It marked the beginning of a partnership between the Chiefs and the YMCA of Greater Kansas City to provide FLAG football to kids throughout the metro, allotting young athletes all over the city with the equipment necessary to hit the field. This is an extension of an already existing partnership between the Chiefs and the YMCA, which brings together players and youth athletes for a Play60 clinic every year.
"It was a cool experience. The complex is beautiful and the kids looked great in their Chiefs' jerseys," Butker said. "It's just good that they're getting outside, learning about the game of football and having some fun. It makes me think back to when I was a kid – I'd love to be doing this."
The partnership is an extension of the Chiefs' new FLAG football program, which launched last month at three schools in the Olathe School District. The Chiefs hope to implement the program elsewhere throughout the city in the coming weeks and months.
"The game of football is such a passion for so many people in this community," Chiefs Director of Community Engagement Gary Spani said. "Kids should be a part of it and if they learn the game the right way and see how much fun it is, they can learn valuable life lessons that extend beyond the game. The Y's long history of providing youth sports to our community will ensure a positive experience for all, and the Chiefs look forward to being part of it."
Those life lessons were of particular significance to Butker, who further emphasized youth sports' benefits beyond just the Xs and Os.
"I think you learn a lot of great principles playing sports as a young kid," Butker said. "There are so many positive values: teamwork, pushing through obstacles and sacrifice. You learn a lot of good things that I know have helped me, and they can help any kid even if they don't pursue sports as a career."
And with the spring season now in progress, kids all over Kansas City are learning those values while representing their hometown team.
"We are grateful to the Chiefs for their support, which will help give more youth throughout the metro the opportunity to play flag football," said Garry Linn, senior vice president of operations for the YMCA of Greater Kansas City. "The Chiefs' commitment to youth development and healthy living align perfectly with the Y's sports programs."
Butker helped deliver that commitment on Saturday, but as exciting as the visit was, the third-year kicker mentioned that this was just a continuation of the Chiefs' on-going mission in and around Kansas City.
"Things like this are awesome," Butker said. "I think the more we get involved in the community as an organization, the better."
While the spring season is already underway, registration for the fall will open in July. For more information, visit KansasCityYMCA.org/Sports.