Education / Parks

Youth football league a haven for local kids

Rachel Bryson-Brockmann

Glen Williams, in blue track suit, coaches the Big Red Falcons in October.

Adults hope football will help keep kids off drugs

Residents who oversee a local youth football team in hopes of keeping them drug-free, want to convert an abandoned Longwood tennis court into a turf field where the kids can practice.

Glen Williams, a former drug counselor, says he wants to give the kids an alternative to life on the streets. He regularly holds practices at Printer’s Park on Hoe Avenue in Longwood. 

“I don’t promise that they’ll be star football players,” Williams said at practice on a recent afternoon.  “I put them on the right path of going to school, obeying their parents, staying off the streets. I give them a safe haven and keep them occupied.”

The Big Red Falcons are part of Drug Free Football, a loosely organized league Williams founded in 2005, consisting of several teams from the Bronx.

About thirty boys and girls between the ages of seven and 16 show up each weekday afternoon to practice two-hand touch football at Printer’s Park, then ride together by bus to Claremont Park to play games against teams from the Claremont area on Saturdays.

The concrete lot next to the playground is far from an ideal place to practice, said members of the team.

“We trip over things, and little kids from the playground get in the way,” said Ethan Goodman, 14, who has played wide receiver for the Big Red Falcons for five years.

Next to the playground sits an unused asphalt tennis court that is locked shut. The team wants to convert it to a turf field where they could practice.

While one part of the tennis court was renovated in 2008 and is now home to another playground, the other part remains in need of repairs.

Community Board 2 has asked the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation for funds to renovate the lot, but the city says it doesn’t have the money. Instead, parks officials say, the board should reach out to elected officials to help raise funds.

Eddie DeJesus, a local resident whose 11-year-old son plays on the team, has been leading the fight for the lot. Dejesus has brought members of the team to community board meetings and has requested support from local officials, like Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

A month ago DeJesus began raising funds on the website, and says the first thing he will do with the money is buy uniforms for the team. But after a month of fundraising, he says he has raised only $35 of the $10,000 total he says is needed. The team provides a desperately needed service for young people and their parents in the area, he said.

“A lot of parents aren’t around,” said DeJesus. “These kids need someone to look up to.”

Young people from the neighborhood agree the Big Red Falcons are an important part of their lives.

“He’s like a dad,” said Tais Majia, 12, and her sister Chelsea, 13, in unison, about Williams.

DeJesus said it’s crucial to make the turf practice field at Printer’s Park a reality, not only to provide the young people a place to practice, but to keep the young people from losing faith.

“A lot of people promise these kids things that never happen,” he said.

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  1. Pingback: Youth Football Team Looks for New Turf | The Bronx Ink

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