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IPS Athletics forms football partnership with Gridiron Gang

IPS District Director of Athletics Darren Thomas speaks during the partnership agreement.

Today, the Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) Athletics Department announced a partnership with the Gridiron Gang designed to spur young boys and girls to learn and play football.

Representatives from Players United, IPS Athletics, and the Gridiron Gang were on hand at Arsenal Technical High School today to share the game plan for opening up professional-level training in football skills for male and female student-athletes and their coaches in the IPS system — free of charge.

“A critical piece to what IPS Athletics seeks to accomplish by working with the Gridiron Gang is closing as many resource gaps for our student as we can,” IPS Director of Athletics Darren Thomas said. It’s common to see high-level football training and programming for students in the surrounding areas and suburbs. Yet, we know wholeheartedly that our student athletes deserve to be able to receive that same level of development right here in IPS, regardless of whatever barriers may be present. Now, through our partnership with the Gridiron Gang, we will be able to work together to provide that for them.”

The partnership includes in-season and off-season football training programs, camps, clinics, tournaments, nutrition assessments, remote coaching, mentoring, and community engagement. Short-term and longer-term programming is planned — the first of which will be a coed, development and skills-based flag football league at the elementary and middle school levels, which starts this week.

IPS boys and girls from Grade 4 through Grade 12 will have access to the highest level of football development training and skills, along with life-skills training and mentoring, which will benefit IPS youth and their families.

The new partnership between IPS Athletics and the Gridiron Gang is made possible by funding from the Players United Foundation, a collective of corporate philanthropists and private donors working with nonprofits to drive the holistic well-being of student athletes.

Former Indianapolis Colts star Robert Mathis, who co-founded the Gridiron Gang, is leading the effort.

“I grew up in the Atlanta Public School system, which is very similar to IPS,” Mathis said. “I always wished that the type of training and mentoring that we will now be offering IPS youngsters had been a part of my formative years. With the infrastructure of success through sports available here in our community through Gridiron, these boys and girls will not only gain professional-level football skills, but a network of friends, coaches, mentors and leaders all training together.”

Janiene Boice, the chief development officer for Players United, explained the importance of this new partnership.

“We at Players United are dedicated to leadership and skill development and believe in equal access, support, and positive football programming. Our first goal is ensuring that basic needs are met for all of our IPS students, and then not only supporting the students, but also focusing on coaches training and supporting the parents because this can increase the success of the child’s whole development. This is a thrilling day for all of us.”

“The fire’s hot now,” Mathis added. “And we need to get to these kids sooner.”