The deadline to register for the Summerville Sertoma Club youth football program is approaching fast.

Registration for fall Sertoma tackle football closes July 27. The nonprofit club has sponsored youth football and cheerleading programs for decades. Each season approximately 600 football players and 200 cheerleaders participate in the Sertoma leagues, which require a background check for all coaches and insist coaches as well as parents comply with specific codes of conduct.

“Our coaches try to stress the fundamentals and joy of the game,” Summerville Sertoma Club President Kevin Betzold said. “With us it is not all about winning or losing. We want to prepare young athletes for high-school level football and place emphasis on character.”

Last year, the program included 32 football teams for youth age 5-12. That’s across four levels, Mighty Mights (age 5-6), Bantam (7-8), A-League (9-10) and B-League (11-12). The program strives to help kids develop a love for the sport while they also develop the skills they will need to excel in athletics in the future. Then middle school coaches can further their development until they are ready for high school football.

Some coaches are drawn to the program because they want to coach their own kids, but it isn’t uncommon for a coach to stay for years after their kids have outgrown Sertoma Football.

“We have some coaches who have been at it for 10-plus years,” Betzold said. “I have been able to coach our youngest age group and our oldest and I’ve really enjoyed watching the kids’ progression over the years. Just getting them out of their house and active is something, but we also help them learn right from the start and we do a lot of good with the money we raise through the program. I think that message gets lost sometimes.”

The Summerville Sertoma Club has helped children with hearing disabilities since 1972. The money the club raises each year goes to helping send children to Camp Sertoma of South Carolina, which aims to nourish the minds and bodies of youth by providing challenging, meaningful and memorable experiences in athletics, camps and aquatics, in an effort to strengthen their capacity for leadership, teamwork, perseverance and understanding of others.

This past year, with the help from Hearing Care of Summerville, the Summerville club was able to provide hearing aids to a local teen who for 18 years has struggled to hear.

Each summer, the Summerville Sertoma Club offers youth football camps where young athletes can hone their football skills. The final camp of the summer kicked off July 16 at Gahagan Park. Approximately 80 campers registered for the five-day event.

For more information on the club, its camps, or its football and cheerleading programs, visit Registration is available online.