Lakewood Ranch Herald

YMCA opens doors to Ranch teens after football game

LAKEWOOD RANCH - Brian Johnson spent his lunch hour Wednesday entertaining Nolan Middle School students with his dodgeball skills.

"I made a fool of myself in the school cafeteria," Johnson, 31, said with a laugh.

Johnson, the recently hired teen outreach coordinator for the Lakewood Ranch Branch YMCA, may have thought himself foolish, demonstrating how modern dodgeball is played with soft "Nerf" balls, not welt-producing volley- balls.

But his real motive was to drum up interest in Friday's "Fifth Quarter," a new Lakewood Ranch Branch YMCA event for teens that will be held directly after every Lakewood Ranch High School home football game this year, up until 11:30 p.m.

"Fifth Quarter" is not yet offered in conjunction with any other high schools or at any other YMCAs, but could be in the future, said Lisa Strutt, a YMCA marketing director.

For the past few days, Johnson has been attending local schools and handing out fliers, which may draw 150 to walk the short distance from the Mustangs' stadium to the YMCA to try to win a five-on-five dodgeball tournament during the first "Fifth Quarter," Johnson said.

"We will really blow it up out there after the home games," Johnson said. "We will have a five-on-five dodgeball tournament this Friday and we have skate ramps coming another week and a rapper coming in. For those who prefer something a little quieter, we have a room for video games and movies."

The program is designed to give teens and pre-teens something to do on a Friday night after the game, Strutt said.

"We want them to hang out at the Y," Strutt said.

For a $2 entrance fee, youth get pizza and soda.

Johnson, who has two young sons, has a special gift for reaching teens, said his wife, Andrea Johnson, an attorney with the Bradenton law firm of Harllee & Bald.

"Brian has an amazing heart for this generation," Johnson said. "But more importantly he stays relevant and he understands the issues facing these teenagers. I think he has learned from his own personal experiences and he is able to connect with these kids. That's why they respond to him."

Johnson's part-time position was created in July after the YMCA received a $30,000 grant from the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund to engage teens.

"The goal is to get teens involved in YMCA activities and to keep them out of trouble with things to do," Strutt said.

If you go

What: "Fifth Quarter"

When: Directly after every Lakewood Ranch High School home football game until 11:30 p.m., beginning Friday

Where: Lakewood Ranch Branch YMCA, 5100 Lakewood Ranch Blvd.

Admission: $2

Information: 782-0270