Vision of Excellence
Vista Pop Warner Little Scholars Football & Cheer has served as Vista’s youth football and cheer organization for three decades. And while participants are continually improving their athletic skills, they learn some even more valuable lessons in the process. VPW is not just about sports: it’s about learning discipline, teamwork, goal setting, time management, responsibility, and helping one another be the best they can be. In fact, according to VPW President Gaby Blas, several board members don’t even have children in the program but feel so strongly about the values instilled by VPW that they have committed themselves to seeing the program succeed regardless. Read along to see how VPW impacts young lives and remains a pillar in the Vista community.
Q&A with Vista Pop Warner President Gaby Blas
What is the history and motivation behind Vista Pop Warner Football & Cheer (VPW)?
Vista Pop Warner Little Scholars Football & Cheer has served the Vista community for three decades as its youth football and cheer organization. Many of the long-standing members of our community have played football or cheered for VPW right here at Vista Magnet Middle School. As a cornerstone of the community we have come to symbolize the strength and resilience of the people of Vista.
When does each season begin? What types of programs are offered?
The season begins Aug. 1 every year. Vista Pop Warner offers flag football for ages 5 to 7, tackle football beginning at age 7 through age 15 following an age/weight matrix every season, and cheer for ages 5 to 15.
What ages and abilities can participate in the league?
To play for VPW you must be between 5 and 15 years of age and meet the age/weight matrix for the division in your age group. You can start as a beginner. If someone wants to come volunteer and help out, you can be in elementary school to adulthood. We encourage volunteerism and are happy to provide a place for students to come get volunteer hours for their classes. Anyone over the age of 18 can fill out a volunteer application to assist the league or a specific team and must undergo a background check.
Can you provide a breakdown of the divisions offered?
The divisions offered are Flag, Tiny-Mite, Mitey-Mite, Jr. Pee Wee, Pee Wee, Jr. Varsity, Varsity and/or Unlimited.
How much does it cost for one to sign up for a season at VPW?
It costs between $225 and $425 to register with Vista Pop Warner. The cost depends on the division of play and during what period of the registration the sign-up occurs. We start our online sign-ups in February and have an early bird discount for anyone that registers in the first two months of registration. The last month of registration is considered late registration and the price increases. There is a lot of paperwork that goes into getting ready for the season, and the more time we have to cross our Ts and dot our Is the less stressful it is on the board members, who are also volunteers.
What is your role with VPW? What are some of your responsibilities?
I am currently the president of the organization. This is my second year in the position; however, I have been helping since 2006 in one capacity or another. I have been a team mom, held several board positions, and have been on the executive board for the past five years. I am responsible for communicating and enforcing all rules passed down from Palomar Conference, Wescon, and National Pop Warner. I also attend conference meetings and preside over VPW meetings as well as supervise the affairs, activities, and overall operations of the league.
At-A-Glance | Vista Pop Warner President Gaby Blas
Name: Gabriela Blas
Community: I have lived in the City of Vista since 1982, served on the Community Safety Commission for three years, and recently attended Vista Citizens’ Leadership Academy.
Education: Graduated from Vista High School and have an Associate’s Degree in Paralegal Studies from Maric College.
Family: Married to George Blas and we have two sons – Kaleob (recent graduate of VHS) and Jacob (10th grader at VHS). Our boys played for Vista Pop Warner from 2006 to 2014.
Hobbies & Interests: Helping Vista Pop Warner for the last 10 years is my number one hobby. I love watching football and basketball games. In my downtime, I pass the time on Pinterest and trying my hand at crafts.
Favorite Pop Warner/Cheer Division: I’d have to say Mitey-Mite is my favorite division for football because it’s the first year for tackle football. Not only do the players look adorable in a helmet and shoulder pads, but they learn so much the first season about themselves and the sport. They start off the year by being “off balance” (they remind me of bobble heads) because they feel top heavy, and by the end they are doing spin moves on the field.
It’s harder to pick a division for cheer because each stage is so unique. Last year I had the opportunity to help chaperone our varsity cheer girls that went to a competition in Orlando, FL in December. They reminded me how important it is to make every day fun and live it to the fullest; no matter who is around. Then there are the flag girls: they are so full of energy and excitement that the coaches have a tough time getting them to focus. But once they do focus and learn the cheers you can’t stop them… they will walk around the field on game day reciting the cheers to anyone that will listen. Oh, and they give hugs every time they see you! You have to love that confidence and love!
What is VPW’s overall mission?
Mission Statement: “The mission of Vista Pop Warner is to provide a fun environment for our participants that fosters excellence in academics, while teaching the value of hard work in a team environment. With football and cheer as tools, our participants become better young men and women, our parents have the opportunity to develop their leadership skills, and our staff accepts the challenge to improve the league each year.”
Vision Statement: “Our vision is to be champions in life using the value system earned as a scholar athlete as the vehicle for success in any endeavor.”
Can you highlight upcoming significant dates for this season? What can one expect as a participant?
A couple of upcoming significant dates:
Oct. 22 – Flag Festival
All the flag teams in Palomar Conference will play their last game on our fields at VMMS. To celebrate the occasion there will be a festival atmosphere on the field as well.
Oct. 23 – Palomar Cheer and Dance Competition
All our cheer teams will compete for titles in Palomar Conference.
Tell us about your coaching staff and their professional background. What does the hiring process entail?
Our current coaching staff has a lot of experience combined. We do accept coaches with little experience as well because we have plenty of coaches that are willing to teach someone who wants to coach the participants. It is preferred that a head coach applicant have some previous experience as an assistant coach before getting into that position. There is only a hiring process for head coaches and it begins by the applicant filling out and turning in a volunteer application. Once the application is received, board members conduct the interview. After reviewing the application and interview notes, the board takes a vote as to whether or not the applicant will be offered a position. Since the interviewing and voting occurs well in advance to knowing how many teams and divisions we will have, the offers are made on a contingency that the spot they want to coach in will be available. Once the head coach is assigned a team, they find volunteers to assist them with their team and provide them with the volunteer application and background check information to submit to the board.
Tell us about your board members and their various responsibilities.
Our board members are an amazing group who absolutely love what VPW has to offer our participants. We currently have a total of 11 board members who have been doing double duty to get this season going. Our board consists of executive board positions to snack bar manager and player/parent representatives. Four out of the 11 don’t have children in the program but feel so strongly about the values participants learn while at VPW, that they committed themselves to seeing the program succeed. I realize 11 sounds like a lot, however with close to 200 participants having signed up this year and all the administration, preparation, fundraising, and ongoing operations that is needed, our 11 volunteers are maxed out. Keep in mind we all do this as a hobby, don’t get paid, have full-time jobs, and most also have children under the age of 15. I am very grateful for having such a wonderful group at my side.
How can someone go about sponsoring a team?
Someone can go to our website to sponsor the league or a team, they can call us at 760-650-2522 or email our fundraiser rep at email@example.com. All our sponsors are listed on our webpage.
Does VPW hold fundraisers throughout the season?
Yes, we hold fundraisers before and during the season to benefit both the teams and the league. We have dine-outs, merchandise, special events, and booths during game days.
At-A-Glance | Vista Pop Warner
Zip Codes Served: All zip codes in the Vista Unified School District. nearby cities can play at VPW with a waiver signed by that city’s Pop Warner association if they have one.
For those interested in volunteering, how can they get involved?
Those that are interested in volunteering can go to our website to contact us. They will need to fill out an application and do so by going to our website anytime during the season or reaching out to any board member. Anyone interested in coaching should submit an application at the beginning of the year, January through May, before the season starts. Head coaches go through an interview process with the board of directors and, if they are approved, are given a team contingent on how many participants sign up for the upcoming season.
How has VPW evolved over the years?
Well, when my children started in 2006 VPW did not have a score board, a website, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram accounts. All of the business processes were done by paper and through phone calls or emails. We are now connected through media to all our current, former, and future participants, not only through social media, but also a newsletter that goes out on a regular basis giving updates for participants and their family. We also are now able to start part of the registration process online and will soon hopefully be able to collect important documents via an online process as well. Additionally, when I first joined the board there were only about six members volunteering and currently we have 11. It’s great to see more people getting involved to ensure the program continues to grow and stays in the community.
What is the most exciting aspect about being a part of VPW?
The most exciting aspect of being part of VPW is seeing the young men and women grow up in the program. To see them go from little children to young adults is an unbelievable feeling. I was lucky enough to have been team mom for both my kids’ teams a while ago and now get to see those same kids playing at the high schools and still get greeted as if I were still their team mom. It warms my heart each time!
What are you looking forward to the most in regard to this upcoming season?
I am looking forward to seeing all our participants have a great time and enjoy the season.
How can people go about finding out more information about VPW’s leagues, important Pop Warner and cheer dates, and more?
There are two great places to check out information about VPW’s important dates: Facebook and our website.
What are three or four reasons participants enjoy VPW?
Participants enjoy learning and building their skills in both football and cheer, spending time with friends, playing games, and cheering each other on to get better at something they all love.
If you had to describe Pop Warner football in five words, what would you say?
A community willing to contribute.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
VPW is not just about playing football and cheering; it’s about learning discipline, setting goals, setting a plan to attain goals, and working hard to achieve them. It’s about learning to be part of a team and learning to take constructive criticism, helping one another become better physically, mentally, and academically. It also teaches participants time management skills, responsibility, and teamwork.