photos by Tyler McElhaney

Scripps Ranch Pop Warner & Cheer (SRPW), an affiliate of the Palomar Pop Warner Football and Cheer Organization, is on the cusp of a new and exciting season. Those involved are committed to delivering excellence. The overall goal is to motivate and challenge participants through a partnership of players, cheerleaders, coaches, parents, volunteers and community members. President, Lisa Gorski and Cheer Coordinator, MJ Wittman share the ins and outs of what it takes to put on a successful season. Lisa reflects on how the organization began and MJ elaborates on her enthusiasm for being part of such an extraordinary community organization. It was evident after talking with both ladies, how passionate they are about the organization’s commitment to the community and the importance of teaching responsibility and good sportsmanship to all participants. With player assessments underway and conditioning camps in the near future, the athletes are pumped up for another energy-packed season of football and cheer. Go Falcons!




What is the history behind Scripps Ranch Pop Warner & Cheer (SRPW)?
My husband Ron and I started SRPW in 2006 after our son, Ryan had played his first year of football the year before in Mira Mesa. All that season, I was wondering why we didn’t have a Pop Warner football program in Scripps Ranch when we had all of the other youth sports. In January, my husband was asked to be on the Mira Mesa Youth Football (MMYF) board and after attending one meeting, he came home and suggested we start our own league in Scripps Ranch. From there, I googled “San Diego Pop Warner” to see who I could talk to. Savaii Seau, Junior Seau’s brother, who was the Vice Commissioner, called me back and said they would love to have Scripps Ranch in SDPW. He went with me to meet with the high school principal about using their field for our home games. We ran into a snag because MMYF had just signed a contract with Scripps Ranch High School (SRHS) to have their games there. They said they couldn’t have two youth football leagues at the school so I worked with MMYF to go back to Mira Mesa High School (MMHS) so that we could be the feeder program into Scripps Ranch. To me it only made sense that the kids who lived in Scripps Ranch have the opportunity to play football at their neighborhood high school. After securing the fields, we assembled a group of parents to form our first board of directors, recruited some football coaches who lived in Scripps Ranch to coach our teams and started advertising registration. In our first season, we had over 200 participants; we filled all our teams and had cheer squads for almost every team. It was so exciting and rewarding to see this all come together in one year. We had a great first season.

DSC04392What is the traditional season?  
The season begins on Aug. 1 and continues until the middle of November.

What is the mission of the SRPW organization as a whole?
SRPW Football and Cheer is committed to excellence: motivating and challenging participants through a partnership of players, cheerleaders, coaches, parents and community. We will treat each child, parent and community volunteer with courtesy, dignity and respect.

What is your role as president?
I oversee the league, preside over the monthly board meetings, and I am also responsible for the general supervision, direction and control of the business and affairs of the Association. I attend monthly president’s meetings where all the president’s and commissioners from the Palomar Conference meet to discuss all aspects of running the conference. I am involved with the hiring of all the head coaches. I oversee our financials, volunteers, fundraisers and player placement as well as all the registration sign-ups, our equipment distributions and returns, the Opening Day event and all of our home games. I am the liason between the high school and our league and am involved with all the vendors and other service providers that we work with to run our program. I work year-round to make our organization the best that it can be.

What’s your main goal? DSC04481
To provide a great experience for our kids to learn football and cheer; to learn teamwork while being a part of a team that prepares them for life as they get older. There are a lot of life lessons that kids learn playing football and cheer. We teach them to never give up, how to be great sports, aspects of working as a team and the importance of feeling proud for their successes on and off the field. All that the athletes experience in SRPW prepare them for what they will be experiencing when they get older.

What’s the drawing point for a young athlete to want to participate in the organization?
Any child can participate in football and cheer if they have the desire. We accept all players and cheerleaders and all kids get a chance to play. Some of the more talented players have more playing time than others, but all kids get the chance to try out for different positions and all players receive a minimum amount of playing time.

How does a business or family sponsor a team?
We really appreciate any family or business who would like to be a sponsor. We request that all sponsors support the whole league and not just one particular team. All they have to do is fill out a sponsor form and we will include them on our spirit pack t-shirts, on a banner displayed at our home games, and in our new yearbooks and the newsletter. We also always thank our sponsors during home game announcements.

Who are the current SRPW sponsors?
Our sponsors this year are the Scripps Ranch Old Pros, Stanley Steemer, MD Today Urgent Care, Dicks Sporting Goods, Dr. Maulik, Anthony Scoma, DDS, Wahine Kai Shave Ice, Mission Pools, Lennie Fernandez, Miramar Transmission, Biomed, Smart and Final and Sports Authority.

DSC04519How does one become a volunteer within the organization?
We have many opportunities for people to volunteer with our organization. They just need to let us know what they would like to volunteer for and we can always find a place for them to help out. We always need help with coaching and we always need help on our game days with working in the snack bar and helping to set up and break down on home game days.

What positions are you most in need of filling?
Right now our greatest need is for a head coach for our second flag team, our Pee Wee team and our Jr. Midget team. We also need another head cheer coach and can always use more assistant coaches and cheer trainers on all of our cheer squads.

Does SRPW hold any fundraisers? If so, please elaborate.
We are having an opportunity drawing on Opening Day. All our participants sell raffle tickets to win some great prizes and the funds are used to supplement our program.

What is the most unique thing about SRPW compared to other programs?
I think the thing that sets Pop Warner apart from any other program is that it is a tough sport so it isn’t for everyone. The workouts are tougher than any other sport. My son grew up playing soccer, basketball, Little League, hockey, volleyball and golf; nothing prepared him for the tough workouts that he did once he started football. After you go through 2 ½ hours of grueling exercise, running, push- ups, bear crawls, sit-ups and non-stop conditioning, players go home wiped out and exhausted. It takes a certain type of person to go back out there day in and day out wearing a helmet, shoulder-pads and pads in the heat of summer, only to do two hours of hard exercise and not want to quit and go home and lay on the couch. They keep coming out and working hard, trying to get stronger and better at their positions so they can play a game that they love. The other thing that really sets football apart, I think, is the passion that the coaches and parents show for the game. Having been a football parent myself, I know how much I always looked forward to my son’s games and I know that the football games on Saturdays are a highlight for many families each week. Also, for the cheerleaders, they do a lot of conditioning, training and practicing to do their routines with their goal of making it to the national competition in Florida.

Tell us about your coaching staff. DSC04558
We have an excellent coaching staff consisting of dads who either played high school or college football, who are now volunteering their time to teach and coach our players. Each team has a head coach, five assistant coaches, an equipment manager, a business manager, a team parent and they can also have a coach trainee or a team trainer.

What are their credentials and what is the process they go through to be involved?
All of our head coaches go through extensive training to be a coach. They need to go through the USA Football training program where they must take a test and pass it to be certified. They also attend mandatory coaches clinics, coaches meetings and attend several optional football camps put on by nearby high schools and colleges. Many coaches also study on their own learning the different positions so they can effectively train all of the players.





How does one become part of/register for SRPW cheer? What is the age range?

Any child who is between the ages of five and 15 and is interested in football or cheer may register for our association through our website.


What is your role as cheer coordinator? How did you become involved with the organization?DSC04439

I am responsible for the overall running of the organization’s cheer program. I am also a member of the Association Executive Board and I act as a liaison between SRPW and Palomar Conference in matters related to the cheer program. I originally became involved with Pop Warner when my oldest daughter, Caitlin (15), was in 4th grade. She loved being on the SRPW Jr. PeeWee Squad. Since last year, both my youngest children have been involved with SRPW. Hunter (7) plays on the flag football team and Venice (6) cheers on the flag cheer squad. The best thing about my family’s involvement with SRPW is that Venice cheers for Hunter’s team. I’m also head coach for the flag cheer squad and Caitlin is one of my student trainers from SRHS cheer. After last season, I was asked to consider being the cheer coordinator. It certainly is an honor to have this position.


What is your main goal this year as cheer coordinator?

My goal is to have each cheer participant not only have fun cheering but also learn the values of friendship, integrity, fairness, respect and the principles of good sportsmanship. Every cheerleader is part of a squad and there are three components that make up that squad: coach, cheerleader and parent. I believe that in order to have a successful season, all three must work together as one cohesive unit.


DSC04413Tell us about a typical season for SRPW Cheer and what to expect as a participant.

Our season starts on Aug. 1. We have mandatory cheer conditioning for the first two weeks, which include 20 hours of conditioning. During the first week, they also attend a cheer camp where they have tons of fun and learn cheers, chants, stunting and a dance.

Games are on Saturdays beginning Aug. 31 for flag teams and Sept. 7 for tackle teams. Home tackle football games are held at the Scripps Ranch High School Football Stadium. Flag home games are held at the SRHS Soccer Field.

On Oct. 27, all of our cheer squads will compete (Flag & Mitey Mite squads are exhibition only) in the Palomar Conference Pop Warner Cheer Competition. This is something that the squads begin preparing for in early September. Each competing squad that places within the top two of their division will move on to the Regional Competition in late November. Each squad placing in the top two will then move on to the Pop Warner National Cheer & Dance Championships that take place on the first week in December in Florida at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex.


Does SRPW Cheer hold any fundraisers? If so, please elaborate.

Fundraising is an important component of cheerleading. A league fundraiser will be made available to all cheerleaders and football players prior to our SRPW Opening Day by selling raffle tickets that allow the buyers the opportunity to win three amazing prizes. All other fundraisers will be determined at each squad level in order to provide some financial relief for parents in meeting travel expenses, or other needs as determined by the squad, coaches and parents.

Throughout the season, squads may participate in several fundraising activities. Spirit Grams are a fun way to raise money by selling cheers and chants to the parents of SRPW football players. After coordinating with the player’s parent(s), the cheerleaders will arrive at the player’s home with a handmade banner and perform a cheer for him the day prior to a scheduled game.DSC04384

Cheerleaders may also choose to sell team spirit paraphernalia or candy to the crowd at home games to raise money.

Another popular fundraiser for the cheerleaders is to hold a Cheer-A-Thon. Cheerleaders collect pledges from family members, friends and local businesses before the event. Sponsors pledge per hour based on how long the cheerleaders can cheer.

Most of the money raised is used to help our cheerleaders with travel expenses. If our squads earn the honor of placing First or Second at the Regional Competition, they have the opportunity to compete at the Pop Warner Cheer & Dance Championships held at Disney World in Orlando, FL. Within two weeks, our coaches and cheerleaders must decide if they will compete. The estimated expense to send one cheerleader to Orlando is between $1,200-$1,500. We want all our cheerleaders to be able to have this amazing experience, but this experience comes with a price tag. This is why it is so important for us to have the support of our family, friends and community.