Although happily married to his wife, Jennifer, Javier Carreño jokes that his “other wife” is the Village of Pinecrest’s storied Suniland Park on S. Dixie Highway.
“We started out being Suniland Sundevils parents watching our son Javier Jr., 10, and daughter Alexis, 13, participate in football and cheerleading,” Carreño said. “Before I knew it, I was volunteering as a coach and now I spend six days a week, three hours a night, at Suniland, overseeing the entire football program. Jennifer volunteers right along with me.”
Carreño, who works full time for Miami-Dade County’s Water and Sewer Department, started Suniland’s flag football program a few years ago and now has 11 teams comprising almost 100 kids. Player ages range from 5-6 (Pee Wee) to 13 years old and there are teams for every age group.
He secured a sponsorship from NFL Flag Football, the largest flag football league in the United States. He also has received a lot of support from the Pinecrest Police Department, whose officers make time to visit practices and games and get to know the players. “We’re building a rapport between police officers and our athletes, the next generation of leaders,” Carreño said.
The flag football season runs from January to April, followed by the start of conditioning for Suniland’s renowned tackle football program, which begins in June and ends in November.
“Last year, all my tackle football teams made the playoffs, and four went to the Super Bowl,” Carreño said. “Three teams won the Super Bowl in ages 8, 9 and 10.”
Another popular Suniland sport is its cheerleading program, which was named the best team in the nation in its division in 2020-2021. Any child aged 5-15, from beginners to experienced athletes, are welcome to participate and there are no tryouts required.
“I grew up without a dad and found a brotherhood in team sports at Tamiami Park,” Carreño said. “I’ve always wanted to give something back, especially to kids in tough situations.”
Suniland Sundevils Youth Football and Cheerleading was founded in 1968. Registration is open at Suniland Park, located at 12855 Pinecrest Parkway in Pinecrest. The website is SunilandSundevils.com.