After 25 years of service that saw his organization go from being one of the worst teams in the league to one of its best, volunteer Frank Gowin was inducted into the Southeast Region of the Pop Warner Hall of Fame last month at the winter conference in Orlando at the Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel.
Gowin’s induction was the second such honor for the Palmetto Bay Broncos; fellow Broncos associate Mark Peterson was inducted in 2013.
Gowin first became involved with Pop Warner, the oldest and largest youth football and cheerleading program in the world, in 1990 when his eldest son wanted to play.
“When we first joined, the organization was not very well organized and was falling apart,” he said. “My wife went to the first parents’ meeting. When she came home and I asked her how it was and she said, ‘I don’t want to tell you; I want you to go.’ Pop Warner is a drug and alcohol-free environment and they were having the meeting at Hooligan’s Pub. The director didn’t know how much money was in the bank and there were a lot of problems. We started to ask questions and almost everybody quit.”
There were only six or seven remaining members when he returned for the following meeting. They discussed whether to continue the program or merge with another existing organization.
“I said, ‘This is where I live, it’s a beautiful park and we ought to have this program,’ and they said, ‘Well, who’s going to be the commissioner to run it?’ I looked around the room and saw that I was the only one that was going to raise my hand.
So I raised my hand and life changed.”
With the help of his wife Judi – who has served as secretary, treasurer, registrar and the head of the concession stand – Gowin has served as president, commissioner, league representative and head of the equipment room for the Broncos.
They began recruiting families from the surrounding area, attempting to get the parents involved with the program and to help with the services and fundraising efforts that had been neglected. According to Gowin, the strategy had not been employed in the area until then and it was a great success.
“People started coming to us because they liked the fact that we were organized,” he said. “When they came, registration was an orderly process. Practice started and ended on time. After the first couple of rough years, we started attracting better and better coaches, the level of our play improved and we went from being one of the worst teams in the league to one of the best.”
Although he no longer has kids of his own in the program – his sons are now 24 and 25 years old – Gowin plans on staying with the organization for the foreseeable future.
“While other leagues are shrinking, ours is growing; and it’s because of our emphasis on teaching proper fundamentals to minimize risk,” he said. “That’s really our purpose, to find kids who want to play football, coaches who are capable of coaching them and to do things the right way while building the kids up for the future.”