The National City Bears are roaring up a storm on football turf in the south bay. They might only be a couple years old, but their 8-1 record this season has proven their abilities as a team.
Dedicated to the development of their athletes in promoting the tradition of good sportsmanship, the team’s primary focus is to prepare athletes to perform at the next level in the game of football.
CEO Ditas Yamane originally became an owner of the team because she wanted to understand football. But since then, it has evolved into something much more.
"It feels good when you put together a program that helps young men train and do something good for themselves rather than getting in trouble," she said. "It is an accomplishment when you see these young men discipline themselves and become a better citizen in the community and have a better quality of life."
The National City Bears are part of the LCFL Western Conference Minor League Football and are focused on developing football players. They support community events such as local pop warner teams, the South Bay youth football league and the Sweetwater High School Red Devils football program. The Bears have also have partnered with National City and Sweetwater High School for a free youth football camp and coach’s workshop in the community.
"The players are diligent and understand that they have responsibilities as Bears," she said. "They come to practice and they train hard to be at the level to win the game."
Quarterback Michael Clark, 29, joined because he didn’t feel comfortable playing with any other team.
"I didn't want to play for the North County team and I don't feel comfortable with them," he said. "I tried out with other teams but it was not what my expectations were."
Clark said he has seen a structured organization in National City so he stayed and put his commitment to the Bears.
"If there's an opportunity to play at the next level I will, but the National City Bears are here to stay and I will help make them stronger," he said. "To those who want to join the team, be ready to work hard on and off the field. Embrace the community that supports you and understand the vision of the organization."
During practice and games at the Gail Devers Stadium at Sweetwater High School, neighbors come down to watch and talk to the players. Special teams coach Ira Morris said some of those neighbors are at every home game.
"They didn’t even know they had a team in their own backyard," he said. "The businesses that sponsor us know this is their team and they always help and get us going. The politicians here love us. We really feel protected."
Even though the Bears have only been together a few years, they have created a strong bond.
"We've had our ups and downs but we stood in there like a family and we work together like a family," said Morris. "When something did go wrong, we fixed it. “We kept going like a family would do."
Yamane said the National City Bears want to be embraced by the community and in order to do so they have to let the community take ownership of their local team.
“The only thing they know about football here is the Chargers, but because of what we did to our name, it shows we’re very engaged here in National City,” she said. “National City Mayor Ron Morrison is very supportive of our team. Our relationship with the community is very important because they are the ones that will make us big and will fight for us.”