West Lynn Pop Warner Rams President Amy Robinson and East Lynn Pop Warner Bulldogs President Duke Wilson had been working on contingency plans for the 2020 season since March when the coronavirus became a major health crisis in the United States.
The two presidents, who have each led their respective organizations to great heights for the past decade, hoped that by August their teams could begin practices for the start of their season in September.
Robinson and Wilson waited as long as possible to make a very difficult season: the cancellation of the 2020 Pop Warner season in the City of Lynn. It was a decision that affected hundreds of football players and cheerleaders, coaches, and Lynn families.
As it turned out, Eastern Mass Pop Warner – the conference in which the West Lynn and East Lynn teams compete – affirmed Robinson and Wilson’s decisions with an official announcement Monday that the season is canceled. In fact, there will be no Pop Warner football in the entire New England region this fall.
We asked Pop Warner Presidents Amy Robinson and Duke Wilson for their thoughts about the cancellation of their seasons and what
As a managed career coordinator at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center where she works, Amy Robinson has been on the front lines during the COVID-19 global pandemic for several months. She saw the statistics, noted the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases, and brought a professional medical perspective into discussions with her WLPW board members at monthly meetings.
“It was a sad decision, but it’s the right move and I felt that it was right to cancel our season before Pop Warner officially canceled theirs,” said Robinson. “We’re just in uncharted waters here and I rather have my families, my kids, and my staff be safe versus somebody getting sick and it runs through the program and potentially hits a family or staff member and you have the worst-case scenario.”
Amy, with her husband Andre Robinson by her side as a huge supporter and a Rams’ football coach, has guided a resurgence of the West Lynn organization that has sent teams to the National Pop Championships in Florida in cheerleading and football. Former coach Maurice Cordy led a string of highly successful West Lynn teams into the Nationals that take place in ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex (which is the same complex where the NBA season is taking place).
“We’ve been consistently going to Disney for the Nationals since 2009 in cheering and football and we’re proud of that accomplishment,” said Amy. “We have a good core of people in the program. We have great families.”
Amy Robinson said she expected between 100-130 football players and cheerleaders to participate in the program this season.
“We generally hold our registrations in March, but everything changed when COVID-19 hit,” said Robinson. “We never got to the field for a single practice. The risk was too high.”
The WLPW president has heard some interesting news that Pop Warner may move the season to the spring of 2021. “It is something that Pop Warner is considering, something they’re looking at for the spring,” said Robinson. “It all depends on the numbers and where COVID-19 is at in the spring. And as people know, Lynn is considered a ‘hot spot’ again, so realistically I hope we can have some type of spring season, but I don’t even know if that would take place.”
In addition to her husband Andre’s contribution to the program, their daughter, LhyEshia, has been a cheerleading coach.
Robinson also credited her board of directors, Vice President Orlando Concepcion, Treasurer Robert Merryman, Secretary Melanie Lopresti, Cheer Director Kassandra Jackson, Registration Coordinators Stephanie Castillo and Karina Saldano, Board Member Brittany Legault (coach of the 2019 national champion Might Mite cheerleading squad), and Board Members James Hunt, Paul Beath, and Julie Rodriguez for their outstanding volunteer efforts in the organization.
Robinson said the board will continue to meet monthly in preparation for the 2021 season.
Duke Wilson has been involved in East Lynn Pop Warner for 26 years. The decision to cancel the season for the first time in the organization’s history was difficult.
“It’s sad because I’ve been doing this for 26 years and for something like to happen – to stop the season was tough for everybody,” said Wilson.
Wilson said he and his officers and board held out as long as possible before making the decision.
“We were all just prolonging the inevitable,” said Wilson. “We were supposed to start on Aug. 1 and then we pushed it back to Sept. 1.”
Wilson points to a youth football clinic in Weymouth “as the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
“The players were working out and they ended up getting the virus,” said Wilson. “There were people that were not following the guidelines and word gets around.”
Wilson wrote a beautiful letter to the East Lynn Pop Warner community informing everyone about the cancellation of the 2020 season.
Even with the “inevitable” approaching, the East Lynn president had held out hope. “We said we would go all the way down to the wire of there were a glimmer of hope of having a season for the kids, but it just didn’t happen.
“Some of the kids don’t understand the severity of the COVID-19 and what’s going on. They could have it and not be symptomatic yet bring it home to their grandparents, some with underlying conditions and we just don’t want to be responsible for something like that,” said Wilson.
Wilson said more than 150 athletes would have been competing in the East Lynn football and cheerleading programs during the 2020 season.
“Year in and year out, we have great teams, great kids, great coaching staffs, and a lot people involved – we have a good program,” said Wilson proudly. “It was sad to cancel the season, but we were in all agreement that it was the right thing to do. And all the other organizations in Eastern Mass. were on the same page, too.”
Wilson thanked board members such as Lisa Bellamar, Victor Bellamar, Spiro Lamberis, John Raye, Pete Dow, and others for their excellent work on behalf of the organization.
Wilson, a 1989 graduate of Lynn Classical where he played football for the Rams, has been East Lynn president since 2010 and a coach since 1994.
“I just turned 50 this year – the big 5-0,” said Duke, who has delivered so much to the youth of the community through his exceptional work in the East Lynn Pop Warner organization. “I’m just trying to give back to Lynn because it gave a lot to me.”