We remember the high school, college and NFL stars, but almost all of them got their starts in youth football. The Atlanta Colts have been developing stars and leaders for 50 years. The Crier’s own Jim Hart got his start there and is still trying to remember his playing weight.

When Bob Johnson, along with several fellow youth football lovers, founded the Atlanta Colt Youth Association 50 years ago, they probably didn’t expect that it would grow into one of north Georgia’s most recognizable and beloved programs.

“This program was created for the kids,” says Pat Rice, president of the Atlanta Colt Youth Association. “And that emphasis has continued throughout the years.” Unlike other programs that focus more on coaches and practice schedules, the Atlanta Colts have always maintained that their program be about maximizing enjoyment for the kids themselves. This is done through a variety of ways.

Firstly, the team size is vastly smaller than you’d find in most other youth football programs, around 14 players. Not only can each player get a personalized experience from the coach, but they also each receive a starting position in the lineup, as well as a minimum playing time.

Second, unlike many youth sports programs, the players are divided by age and grade level. This results in a better experience overall, more conducive to both enjoyment and learning.

Third, coaches and staff maintain the four guideposts for Atlanta Colts football: safety, friendship, teamwork, and respect.

“Youth football is alive and well,” says Rice. “Kids are safe, having fun, meeting new friends, and being taught valuable life lessons by every coach.”

All of the Atlanta Colts coaches are fully trained and certified, which results in a safe and controlled environment.

And because of the small teams and dedicated coaches, players are learning more than the rules of the game. They’re learning to work together with others. They’re learning to maintain and create friendships. They’re learning critical thinking skills. And they’re learning not only how to win, but how to lose with dignity.

The Atlanta Colts is comprised entirely of volunteers and is a 501(c)3 organization. The volunteers maintain and pay for everything, from the field to the uniforms to the refs to the footballs; family involvement and investment is key.

The Atlanta Colt Youth Association is made up of two teams – interleague and travel. There are around 750 children signed up each year, from all over the metro Atlanta area, the vast majority of whom play in the interleague teams. The youngest accepted age is five, the oldest 13.

Unlike most other leagues, the Atlanta Colts own the uniforms and gear and provide them to the players every year – the cost is included in the entry fee.

Additionally, there are scholarships available for deserving students; no one is turned away. Registration is currently open; evaluations begin on July 27 with the first practice beginning during the first week of school. The season wraps up by Nov. 1.

As this is the 50th anniversary of the Atlanta Colts, there will be several celebrations to mark the event, including a fireworks show and reunion party. If you have fond memories from your time playing or coaching with the Atlanta Colts, email those stories to A few of the chosen stories will appear in a later article here in The Crier.

Josh Nazarian, board member, sums it up best. “If your child wants to have a lot of fun, make new friends, and learn to play football, we invite them to come run with the Colts.”

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