‘Bummed’: Union players struggle to get to practice

High School Preps

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Practice makes perfect, and that may be why the Grand Rapids Union High School football team’s record is far from it.

They haven’t won a game since 2015. Part of the reason is that more than half the players have trouble getting to practice.

“Dang, we’re putting our heart into this,” senior Rodney McFall said, “trying our best to win. And you look and it’s two other people there; three, four other people sometimes. … You be bummed out. Like, where are the rest of my teammates?”

There are roughly 25 players, but there are days when only a few are able to show up to summer camp. The team has to use trash cans because there aren’t enough players.

“It’s more fun when you can look across and see oh, God, there is an actual person than a trash can,” McFall said.

The team has three seniors who have been devoted since freshman year.

“It’s definitely unfair to us, the dedicated group, but it’s not the players’ fault that they can’t make it,” Caleb Smith, one of the seniors, said.

“Our kids have to work and help pay bills,” head coach Rick Angstman explained.

Parents are working and kids don’t have cars, so Angstman sets the practice schedule according to the city bus schedule.

Junior Demarion Keyes is a running back. It takes him roughly 40 minutes and two buses to get from his home on the southeast side of Grand Rapids to Union High School on the West Side for practice. A ride cost about $2 each way. That adds up when you have two trips four days a week for months.

Team captain Cody Garrison realizes it’s hard to win without practicing, so he linked up with the GR Summer Project. It’s a group that empowers youth to find and implement solutions to problems they’re facing. The organization connected the team with local business like Bourbon Street, which put out a donation jar and is now raising money for bus passes.

The team hopes it could be the key to ending the losing streak.

“We are not asking for handouts. We are getting involved and showing that we care also and hopefully it will result in the community caring about us,” Garrison said.

So far, $1,500 has been raised, but the team still needs another $2,000 to cover the cost of bus passes. Donations can be made online via PayPal.

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