- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sgt. Corey Owens, coach of the Washington Area Military Athletic Conference football team, is taking the Warriors to a higher level of competition this year. The team will be competing in the Seaboard Conference that includes club teams from various colleges. The Warriors will therefore now compete against players beyond the rank-and-file service members. At the same time, the team remains active in volunteer efforts to benefit the community.

The WAMAC Warriors football team consists of service members from different branches of the armed forces in the D.C. area. They will compete against Seaboard Conference teams such as George Mason University, Stevens College of Technology and Valley Forge Military Academy. They will also play out-of-conference games against Georgetown and Drexel universities. The season begins Sept. 5 with a match against GMU. In the meantime, they will have a passing-only scrimmage June 12 against Howard University and June 19 against Georgetown.

The team has been holding practice since early March at the Walter Reed Forest Glen Annex in Silver Spring. Sgt. Owens, now in his second season as head coach, is working to improve the team’s performance. Before Sgt. Owens assumed the reins, the team had played in mostly informal scrimmages with the result usually being the same — colossal defeat. However, Sgt. Owens has taken the military approach to coaching. “We’ve got guys who want to play in college when they get out of the military, and we’re just trying to develop a tougher schedule, get competitive and get better as a team,” he said.

Sgt. Owens, a former player, can be found in the middle of the field during practice, playing linebacker during offense versus defense drills. He provides a contagious energy to his team. If a corner is able to knock down a pass, Sgt. Owens is the first one to go over to congratulate him. He can often be heard giving a wolflike howl that is soon echoed by the other players.

The Warriors also began the Warriors Entrusted Care campaign for community service earlier this year, more popularly known as W.E. Care. This involves team members doing volunteer work to benefit the community. “There were two things I wanted to do when I became head coach of this football team,” Sgt. Owens said. “One was to ensure we, the coaching staff and myself, were doing everything we could do to positively affect our communities, both the military and civilian.”

The Warriors’ first community service event took place April 18 at the Christian Communities Group Home, an organization in Northwest that helps the elderly in the area with yardwork. “I think this event was definitely the start of something great for the football team,” said Gerald Carter, the team’s offensive coordinator. “This was our first event where they were not competing against each other, but really working together to complete the same task — make someone’s life easier.”

Sgt. Owens was pleased with the work that was accomplished during the first community service event and hopes his team can continue to make a serious impact off the field. “I think today we took a big step in the right direction by doing community service,” he said. “This is something that no one can ever take away from these guys: No matter where they go in life or what they become, the bond that they are building now is definitely special.”

Sgt. Owens thinks it is vital to create strong team chemistry off the field. During lunch hour, for example, players go together to military child development centers to read to children.

The team’s next community service event will take place June 27, as they participate in the D.C. Run as One 5K race in Crystal City. The run will benefit the Thomas G. Labrecque Foundation, a research and education institute committed to preventing lung cancer.

Sgt. Owens said that he “wanted to show commands and commanders that these guys aren’t just football players, they are leaders and professionals on and off the field.”

The team is still searching for players, especially offensive and defensive linemen, before the season begins. The Warriors are a club-level team, hence college eligibility is not required. Any service member, regardless of status (Active Duty, ROTC, Reserve, National Guard), can join. Interested players should contact WAMAC Varsity Sports Director Brenda Hardaway, or call the coach, Sgt. Corey Owens, at 740/244-6313.

• Alex McVeigh is a writer living in Annandale.

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