Response to Josie Ferrara Martel Letter
You’ve recently published a post from Josie Ferrara Martel, which had an open letter from the Pee Wee Football Board of Directors attached to it. I wanted to make you aware of several inaccuracies within that letter that I believe should be corrected. It is okay to compare leagues, we just hope that when people do that, they at least get the facts straight. In an effort to correct some of the inaccuracies we hope you post this response to that letter.
Let’s start with the initial email from Ms. Martel:
No organization has been dissolved. The Tigers are still around as an organization and will continue to thrive and offer scholarships, basketball and softball. This new league does not ask for organizations to dissolve, we are asking for them to unify under one team. We will support the 5 Pee Wee organizations and ask them to support us.
Travel. She states that this will diminish opportunities and will be an additional hardship for families. This league will take place primarily within City limits. All practices and all home games will be played in Town. This is football with only a 9 game season. That being said only 4-5 games will be outside city limits. So that is 4-5 times that anyone will have to travel over a 3 month period. We already have parents who are planning on setting up car pools and we will have a travel coordinator to make sure all kids can make it to the away games.
Scholarships. We hope that they continue to offer their scholarships. Again, we are not asking any organization to dissolve. This league will also offer scholarships for players. Multiple sources of funding can only help to benefit our children.
Now on to the letter:
Point 1: Weight & Levels
As stated, the Jr Fishermen are broken up more by age than the current system, which groups kids by 2 grades. The Jr Fishermen even breaks teams at the older levels by class. The letter makes an effort to say that weight restrictions are safer in the existing system because they have limits on defensive players. USA football, which is one of the largest Football organizations in the country, recently concluded a study that stated AGE not WEIGHT is the leading cause of injury at the Youth Level. Breaking kids up by class, so that 8th graders play 8th graders is far more safer than any weight restrictions that you can apply. Furthermore, the worst thing you can do is force a 6th grader to play 8th graders, which is exactly what the current system is doing in order to fill out rosters.
The Cape Ann Youth Football League (this is the League the Jr. Fishermen will be joining) has a Safety committee, which is made up of 14 individuals (one from each town organization). Their only responsibility is to evaluate all of the new data concerning player safety and incorporate any new standards or methods into their program.
Point 2: Travel
We have already touched on this but over the course of 3 months the teams will be asked to travel a total of 4-5 times. The letter references some towns (conveniently picking the furthest ones) but neglects to say there are many more in closer proximity to Gloucester including Danvers, Hamilton-Wenham and Manchester. We are already preparing Travel coordinators per team and are working on car pools. No kid will be left home while the team travels, due to transportation issues. We already have parents volunteering for this.
All home games will be played at GHS and all practices will be within the City of Gloucester.
Point 3: Playing Time
This “fact” is absolutely inaccurate. The Jr. Fishermen WILL have minimum play time restrictions. We are an educational league with the goal to get as many kids as much playing time as possible. We place a premium on educating our youth on the proper and safe way of playing football. That can only be accomplished by allowing these kids to play.
At the JV, D and Mighty Mites level playing time will be by a 50/50 split. This is much greater than the “7 plays” offered by the current system. At the Varsity A, B, and C level the split will be reduced in favor of the more skilled players but there will still be minimum plays, which will be greater than “7 plays”. Furthermore, 11 man football allows for 4 more starting positions than the current system.
Point 4: Levels and Championships
They are correct the Jr Fishermen offers 3 Championships, the current system offers 4. Exactly 1 more. We believe that it is more beneficial to get kids to play fun, educational, and safe football. We would rather put an emphasis on getting as many kids playing on competitive teams at their skill level. This promotes football and helps our kids improve their skills, rather than sitting on the bench behind the “stars.” Let’s get kids playing good fundamental football rather than worrying about how many Pee Wee championships they can win.
Point 5: Safety
They argue the weight restrictions here, which we already discussed. They do not discuss the larger issue of AGE discrepancy, which the current system fully allows. Kids playing up against older and more mature players, which USA football says is the number 1 cause of injury. Furthermore, the current system allows rosters of 25 to play rosters of 12. This causes wear down and fatigue in the smaller team, which is another major cause of injury. The Jr. Fishermen solve both these problems by breaking each team by age/class as well as having minimum roster sizes so that they can stay competitive with the other towns in the league.
This brings us to competitiveness, which the current system is lacking. Some organizations do not have B or C teams. So other organizations do not even have games on certain weeks. Games have been forfeited at half time due to injuries and games are routinely blow outs (42-0).
Coaching requirements. They state that they have been trying to get their coaches certified but as of yet been unable to do it. The Jr. Fishermen and CAYFL require certification or they are not allowed to coach. In addition, the Jr. Fishermen require their coaches to be First Aid, CPR, and Concussion certified. They will also have to take Sports Specific (football) courses offered by NFHS, the same courses High School coaches are required to take. We believe the best way to educate our kids is to start with well trained and educated coaches.
Point 6 Growth & Partnership
We don’t believe this new league looks to single out the current system. All along this has been about unifying these teams to keep football successful in the City. The Pee Wee system has been a great program when looking back over the last 50 years. But if you look at the last 10 you will see a downward trend. This is a country wide problem in football and other towns are seeing their numbers drop as well. Every other town in the state of MA has dropped their multiple team leagues in favor of an opportunity like the Jr. Fishermen. Gloucester is the last holdout of the old way of doing things. Every other town has seen that the only way for football to survive is to have one town team. If you look around every town around us including Beverly, Peabody, Marblehead, MASCO, Danvers, all have 1 team.
The letter states that they have come together when necessary. They reference the traveling teams of the 90’s. We have spoken to many of the players and the Head Coach of those teams. Many of them wish that they had a full season as a team. The new league offers these children an opportunity to play together for a full year. To build camaraderie and a team ethic that they can build on as they move up together level by level. If those times when the Pee Wee teams came together were so good, why not do it for a full season?
Point 7 League Improvements:
The league has been trying to work towards improvements over the last several years. As they work, the numbers keep decreasing. No proposed solution: drafts, disbanding teams, re-structuring of districts, or roster caps have been accepted or approved.
The Jr. Fishermen offer a solution to their most pressing issue, a lack of players. By unifying all 5 teams under 1 team we can make football fun, safe and competitive again. We are not asking for any organization to disband but to join us to help make football continue to be successful for the next generation of our children.
We have heard from many parents who are discouraged by the current system and are contemplating not allowing their kids to play or sending them to other towns to play. This is already happening. We want to stop this process and allow for a fun, educational and safe place for ALL kids to play.
Throughout the letter there is an underlying sentiment that the Jr. Fishermen is not about the kids and that this is really about adults. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The organizers of the Jr. Fishermen are Gloucester people, parents, coaches, officials who have the best interest of every kid at heart. We want to make sure that our kids are being taught the proper way to play football in a competitive safe environment. We want them to have fun. We want them to be safe. We want them to be educated. This league is not for All-Stars, it’s for every kid. This league is not for the Wealthy, it’s for everyone.
We hope that you post this response as soon as you can so that inaccuracies perpetrated by the previously posted letter are not left to fester and become “truths” in people’s eyes.
Thank you for your time,
Gloucester Fishermen Youth Football and Cheerleading League Organizers
GLOUCESTER FISHERMEN YOUTH FOOTBALL AND CHEERLEADING LEAGUE
1. Player Safety:
Develop a safe playing environment for the youth of Gloucester. This will include ensuring that they are being coached by well trained and certified coaches in a well regulated league. Additionally, our children will play on teams with similar sized rosters, at the same age level (8th grade vs. 8th grade) and at similar skill levels (V/JV) as their opponents.
2. Solve the Numbers Problem in Town:
With less kids playing football in the current system it has because increasingly apparent that maintaining 5 teams is unsustainable. We believe that this leads to unsafe playing conditions. This League looks to solve that problem by unifying all the youth football players in Gloucester under one organization. By playing together, we believe that a strong sense of camaraderie and teamwork amongst our youth can be developed, rather than resentment for peers that may play on other in-town teams.
3. Form a working Partnership with GHS Football:
To truly care about our kids, is to see them succeed at every level of play. We believe that building a fun, safe and successful youth program is important. But, we also want to see those same children go on and succeed at the next level. In that regard, an important part of this league will be working closely with the GHS coaches and players to develop a framework for success that will not only carry our children through the youth program but also help them excel at the high school level.
• GFYFL is a member of the Cape Ann Youth Football League (CAYFL), which is a group of similar sized towns located in and around Cape Ann.
• A Community Lead Organization. No one single voice. Lead by the people/parents who are invested and not bound by other organizations/agendas. 1 Family = 1 Vote
– Election of Board of Directors and votes on important issues @ Yearly Meeting
• The GFYFL will consist of the following:
– Four 11-Man Football Teams and one Mighty Mite League
• 8th Grade Team; 7th Grade Team; 5-6th Grade Team; 3-4th Grade Team
• In addition we will have an In-Town Mighty Mites League: K-2nd Graders
• At each level the possibility of adding a JV team, which can be a mix of two levels is available. This will depend on total number of participants.
– 9 Game Season (1st week of Sept. – 1st week of November)
• 4 or 5 Home Games at GHS
• 4 or 5 Away Games (The most travel will be 5 times over 3 months).
– GFYFL will follow CAYFLs weight restrictions for ball carriers:
• A: 152 lbs B: 136 lbs C: 120 lbs D: 93 lbs
• No weight limit for NON-Ball carriers
• Weigh-ins occur before each game
– Roster Sizes:
• Minimum Roster sizes of 20 apply for all Teams, 16 for all JV Teams
• There are no Maximum Roster Sizes
• No one will be turned away
• However Towns are strongly advised that if a Roster reaches 36 players than a JV team be created.
• Increased playing time for all and addresses safety concerns
• NO TRYOUTS, Everyone will play.
– Minimum Play Limits:
• JV, Mighty Mites and D trams: 50/50 split
• A, B, C: Will have minimum play rules selected by Board of Directors
– Cheerleading Participation:
• Every level of football may have a cheering squad affiliated with it
• The A and C team teams MUST have a squad
• In addition to cheering at the games there will also be competitions.
• At least one during the season
• Also are eligible for Outside Competitions.
• We will offer Family caps, Scholarships, and Hardship Requests
Player Safety Considerations:
• Well Trained Coaches
– All Head Coaches are required to be certified in:
• Concussion identification and prevention,
• First Aid/CPR,
• Coaches Certification administered by USA Football
– Coaches will be required to take add. courses offered by NFHS
• EMT/AT Requirements
– No Game can begin without the presence of a licensed EMT, emergency first responder, or Athletic Trainer (AT) on site at the venue of the scheduled game.
• Safety and Compliance Committee
– Each Team is required to have a member on the CAYFL Safety committee.
– Member is responsible to ensure all equipment in good working condition and that any new safety protocols are implemented by the organization.
– Evaluation of USA Football literature and studies
• Consistency Across all levels
– Skills learned at an early age will be expanded upon and refined at the next level.
– This will build confidence and understanding on the proper way to block and tackle.
• Competition against similar teams
– Similar Roster Size, Age, Skill level
– No longer playing Rosters of 12 against 25
– No longer playing Young 7th Graders vs. Old 8th Graders or “Pulling Up” 6th Graders
Partnership with GHS Program
• Promote Football in Town
– By linking to GHS they are now part of something larger than a regional team
– Promote through clinics, scrimmages at half time, etc.
• Prepare our kids for the next level:
– Playing 11 Man Football – like all other kids at their age in MA
• Better knowledge of all Positions and Responsibilities
– Playing together as a Class (i.e. 8th Grade team, etc.)
• Forming a camaraderie with your peers
– Strong ties to the GHS program promotes quick transition and early success at GHS:
• Blocking &Tackling (safety concerns)
• Practice Planning & Organization
• Drills and skill training
• Similar Offensive and Defensive Strategy
• How this will work:
– Incorporation of Youth Coaches into GHS coaching meetings.
– In-house and Outside Coaches Clinics for all coaches.
– Summer clinic for all players.
– High School Coach contact at each Youth level for assistance.
– High School Player involvement during the Season.
– Youth Football Nights at GHS games (half time scrimmages).
Find us at: www.eteamz.com/gloucesterfishermenyouthfootball/