The Southside Raiders:
Kicking Off the 2012 Season
By Jonathan Gramling
For the past 40 years since it was founded by Will Boyd Smith, the Southside Raiders football team has been an important late summer
and fall activity for thousands of Madison elementary and middle school youth. From the beginning of August to the end of October, the
young football players and their cheerleaders practice at Penn Park after school and play at the park or at opponent fields fort seven
Isadore Knox, a long-time South Madison resident who also volunteers with the Raiders, has seen the impact over the years.
“The impact is huge,” Knox exclaimed. “On one hand, our purpose is to get young people involved in something positive. So we use
football and cheerleading to get those kids involved. They learn things about team building and discipline, but more so, they learn that
it is more than just football and cheerleading. They get to be involved in the community. The community as a whole supports the
Southside Raiders. One of the great things is that over those 40 years, we have many families and people who have been associated
with the program for so many years that it is, in fact, a community event more than just young people playing football.”
When he was assigned to the South Madison precinct, Madison Police Detective Wayne Strong became involved with the Raiders as
a way to get to know the community. While he is now assigned to the eastside where he lives, Strong is still a lead coach with the
“I love the Southside Raiders,” Strong emphasized. “My family has been involved and they know how much I love the Raiders. One
story I like to share about my kids is my daughter wrote a really nice poem. She was in the 6th grade and wrote a poem about the
Raiders. And when Byron was a freshman in high school, he had a soccer game. He had a tournament in Oshkosh. I went to him that
morning and I said, ‘Byron, I’m not going to be able to make it to your soccer game today because I have to be in the park today. We
have a home game.’ He said, ‘That’s okay Dad. It’s the Raiders.’ I was just blown away by that.”
While the 150 youth who participate in the Raiders each fall — the demand has been so great that they had to expand to five teams —
think that it is about football, the adults who volunteer with the program know that it is about life.
“We teach them how to work as a team and never give up,” said William Patterson who attends Mt. Zion Baptist Church and lives
downtown. “We teach them concentration. The first year when I was coaching 4th-5th grade, we had all of these penalties all year
because the kids wouldn’t line up right or they would jump off sides. So there is a certain amount of self-discipline involved in
following the rules, but also playing as a team and getting into the right position and waiting until the ball is centered before you move.
There is a tremendous amount of self-discipline involved in the game.”
Many of the youth who participate in Raiders football come from economically-challenged families and so, the youth are charged only
$75 to participate, the lowest in the league. Historically, the Raiders have depended upon grants and corporate contributions to make
up the difference. But with the slow economic recovery, some of those sources have been drying up. So the Raiders are turning to the
community to keep the program going.
“One of the things we are launching is Ten Dollars to Raise $10,000,” Knox said. “We figure we have 1,000 or so supporters out there.
We know that it is really hard on individuals to come out of their pocket. And we figured that $10 is probably a small sacrifice for a
program that we know has touched a lot of people and a lot of lives. Our goal is to try to raise $10,000. That will make sure that the
program is in the black and will replace some of the funding support that is beginning to dwindle because of the economy.”
The youth of South Madison are counting on you!
To donate to the Southside Raiders, one can donate online at www.southsideraiders.org or send or drop off a check or money order
to: Southside Raiders Football C/O Boys & Girls Club of Dane County, 2001 Taft St. Madison, WI 53713.
Left: The 2011 Southside Raiders 5th Grade Team
Above: Isadore Knox (l-r), William Patterson and Wayne