MATTOON -- The Mattoon Junior Football League Board's president, Jerry Williams, is retiring after 20 years of volunteer service on the board.
"It's been a very, very rewarding experience to be able to give back to our youths. That is just really important to me," Williams said during an interview on Wednesday at the Mattoon Junior Football Complex at Shelby Avenue and Sixth Street in Mattoon.
Both Williams and his wife, Renee, are retiring from the board following the end of the 2017 season late last month. The league offers fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth-grade football teams, plus a cheerleading team.
The Mattoon resident said he joined the league's board in 1997 so that he could be actively involved in his sons' youth football activities. Williams said he has always been drawn to football because it focuses so much on building teamwork instead of individual accomplishments.
Williams said the Mattoon Junior Football League, which has been in existence for well over 50 years, decided in the early 2000s that the league needed its own facility. He said scheduling practice and game times at the busy Mattoon High School field had been challenging. The city offered the league space on former railroad right of way between Shelby and Richmond avenues that would become the Roundhouse Complex.
"It's wonderful that Mattoon took an old railroad work yard and developed it into different sports complexes that back youth programs," Williams said, noting the other ball fields at the Roundhouse Complex. He thanked Mattoon Parks & Recreation Superintendent Kurt Stretch for his role in developing and maintaining the Roundhouse Complex.
Williams said Joe Fonner from the Mattoon Junior Football League board drew up plans for a two-story concession stand/storage building and the volunteers with the league started constructing this structure in 2003. Williams said he enjoyed putting in hours alongside Fonner, Denny Kingery and other volunteers on this construction project.
"We worked long hours into the night building this facility," Williams said. "It just took a lot of work by a lot of people."
The newly constructed Mattoon Junior Football Complex started hosting games during the 2004 season. Williams said the league, which is self-funded, raised money over the years and worked with other community groups to enhance the football complex. This site now offers bleacher seating, shade canopies, a picnic pavilion, field lights, and other amenities.
"This is one of the finest facilities available for junior football leagues in the state of Illinois," Williams said, adding that the league's field is better equipped than those at many high schools.
Williams said his work over the years with the league's facilities would not have been possible without the help of his wife, Renee. He said his wife has worked with advertising, bookkeeping, concessions and many other tasks for the league while serving on the board.
Volunteering with the league has meant setting aside much of June through mid-October for youth football activities and working 12-hour days during games, Williams said. He added that they also have helped the league host the Ray McElroy Pro Football Camp during the last 10 years. Williams said he looks forward to having more time to spend with his family, projects at home and golfing.
Williams said he still plans to help install a ceiling in the picnic pavilion this fall, to continue announcing games next year, and to help the board in other ways.
The 2017 Mattoon Junior Football League Board is also comprised of Greg Capitosti, Donna Dye, Tim Dye, Danielle Rhodes, Paula Roling, Erin Spurgeon, Ron Spurgeon, and Tom Strong. Williams said the Mattoon Junior Football League has always had good boards over the years and Capitosti is leading efforts to assemble the 2018 board.
"The board makes it work. Without the help of everyone coming together as a team, it would not be possible. Game days would not be possible," Williams said.