JJ Watt Foundation funds after-school football, volleyball programs

May 11, 2016

Watkins Middle School seventh-grade student Zakiya Greenwood reaches out for a reception during the Club Rewind after-school football program, Club Rewind ROCKS, conducted using funds donated by the Justin J. Watt Foundation. 

May 11, 2016—CFISD middle school students are benefiting from a generous Justin J. Watt Foundation grant to the district’s Club Rewind ROCKS after-school athletic programs.

The nonprofit organization, founded by Houston Texans all-pro defensive end JJ Watt, provided more than $48,700 to CFISD’s community programs initiative last fall to support flag football and volleyball programs at 10 CFISD middle schools qualifying for Title I funding.

Watkins seventh-grade student Fernando Montes smiles after scoring a touchdown during the Club Rewind ROCKS after-school flag football program, funded by the Justin J. Watt Foundation. 

“I really didn’t know if we were going to get it or not, but when we heard confirmation we were really excited,” said Ashlaa Zuniga, Cy-Fair High School assistant girls’ basketball coach, who helped author the grant request. “It is a big deal.”

Zuniga, who interned with the CFISD athletics department last summer, worked in conjunction with Melanie Dobney, community programs assistant director, on the proposal to encourage more participation in middle school after-school athletics. They targeted Title I campuses, which experienced higher enrollment figures this year in Club Rewind—the district’s before-and-after school program. Club Rewind ROCKS is offered at no additional cost to Club Rewind participants.

Tory Hester, community programs specialist and Club Rewind ROCKS flag football coach, draws up a play with Watkins seventh-grade students Jason Maldonado, left, and Gabriel Garcia during a game after school. 

“Now, after they come in, they can do their homework, then split into teams and play organized flag football or volleyball,” Zuniga said. “This gives them an opportunity to participate in a sport that many of them may not have joined in another league.”

Watkins seventh-grade student Daiquiri Hill, right, reaches for the flag of ball carrier Jason Maldonado during a Club Rewind ROCKS flag football game. 

Upon arrival, the students begin with a brief warm-up and stretching led by their coach, or Club Rewind ROCKS program specialist. The coach then facilitates a series of drills to enhance skill development before concluding with a game.

“The kids love it. As soon as they’re out here they never want to leave,” said Tory Hester, who coaches students at Hopper, Labay, Thornton, Truitt and Watkins. “I teach them the basics and then I just sit back and encourage them and help them encourage one another.

Program specialist and Club Rewind ROCKS flag football coach Tory Hester breaks the group of participants during a recent session at Watkins Middle School. 

“What I’m seeing already with a lot of them, is that their behavior in school is improving. If their behavior is improving, I’m pretty sure their grades are improving as well,” he said. “Many of them want nothing more than to have a place to be after school and participate. As long as we have something like this going, things can only get better, not just for our kids but for our community.”

Club Rewind ROCKS flag football launched in February at Arnold, Bleyl, Campbell, Dean, Hopper, Kahla, Labay, Thornton, Truitt and Watkins middle schools, impacting approximately 160 students enrolled in Club Rewind at the campuses. The volleyball program is expected to launch at the same schools in October.

Watkins seventh-grade student Daiquiri Hill, who said he looks forward to playing football for Cypress Lakes High School, credited Watt for his support of the program.

“I think he’s a pretty cool guy to do that,” Hill said. “He’s very giving.”

The foundation’s past support of CFISD schools includes donations to Anthony and Hopper middle schools and Dean Middle School. It also recently announced a donation to Thornton Middle School.

“The Justin J. Watt Foundation has supported CFISD middle school after-school athletics programs for several years, and the generous donation to Club Rewind Rocks will ensure that even more students have positive influences and outlets for years to come,” said Leslie Francis, CFISD director of marketing and business relations.

The Justin J. Watt Foundation has funded more than $1,870,000 to after-school athletic programs since its inception. Visit jjwfoundation.org for more information.


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