GRAFTON—For the past several years, many local counties have been faced with difficultly when it comes to filling the rosters for their youth football programs. Despite being able to work around this dilemma for quite some time, the issue has now made its way to Taylor County.
The Taylor County Youth Football (TCYF) Board recently met and was forced to make a difficult decision regarding the issue.
With a minimum requirement of 15 players to a team and only 13 officially signed up for the upcoming fall season of midget football the day of their meeting, the board was forced to call off the season for the eldest Bearcub group for the first time in over a decade. And according to the Taylor County Youth Football Board, this was something they saw coming, but had hoped to dodge.
“Our number of participants has steadily decreased each year, but in the past, we have been able to make it work,” the members shared. “Unfortunately, this year, we were unable to make it happen despite our best efforts.”
On Sunday, board members along with the Mountaineer Youth Football (MYF) President and Safety Ethics Director met to discuss the situation at hand, and also invited parents in to voice their opinions and concerns.
Throughout the meeting the pros and cons of moving forward with the season for the midgets were discussed in depth, with player safety being in the forefront of the board’s minds.
“The MYF President and Safety Ethics Director answered all of our questions, addressed our concerns and shared rules and the deadlines to make the decision,” the board stated. “Up until that same day, we only had 13 signed up to play.”
Although they did eventually have two more register, the board as a whole felt that it was in the best interest of the boys not to conduct a midget season here in Grafton.
“The magic number of 15 was not easily reached. Sign-ups had been open for months, and essentially, we were running out of time. Of those 15 the signed up, several of them still qualified to play for the peewee team because of weight regulations,” explained board members. “Making it an unsafe situation to move forward.”
And while they could have held off on their decision in the hopes of additional kids joining the team, it could have possibly put those who had already committed to play in jeopardy of missing the season altogether.
“If we waited two weeks into August and one player quit or got hurt, then we would no longer qualify to have a midget football team and those players who truly wanted to play would not have had anywhere to go,” they voiced. “They would not have been accepted into another program so late, and if they were they would, they’d be over three weeks behind joining a brand-new team.”
With a mission to instill a love and passion for the game to those who partake in the feeder program, the TCFY board members noted that they did not want to take a chance on any Bearcub having to sit out for a full season.
“We talked with the correct MYF officials and listened to parents,” the TCFY board commented. “It was a tough decision, but in order to allow our boys the chance at a season, he went ahead and voted that it was in the best interest to go head and make the choice to not have a team.”
Because the board took action and made the choice with weeks left before the start of the season, they provided the opportunity for those who wish to still play football to make plans and find another team, in turn allowing each player a fair shot on a new team, as well as time to become acclimated with the coaching staff and become familiar with new teammates.
“The cons simply outweighed the pros. Having the minimum players on our younger team, the mighty mites, is different, that is something we can work with, as that group is more about learning the fundamentals and proper techniques. It is the instructional league. In that group the kids are also accompanied on the field by two coaches,” the board enlightened.
They went on to say that when it comes to the older group, things are a bit different, as these athletes know how to play, and play to win, making the risk of injury much higher, noting that the completely different level of play is why the decision can’t be inclusive.
“It was a choice we hated to make, but it had to be done and was ultimately the best and safest decision for our 10–11-year-old Taylor County kids that wanted to play this fall. We still and will always want our Bearcubs to play football even if it can’t be for Taylor County this season,” the board expressed.
As for the midget cheerleading squad, the TCYF board shared that the squad will still have the opportunity to cheer during peewee and mighty mites’ games, as well as compete in competition at the end of the season.
And while the TCYF board remains optimistic for a bright Bearcub future, it was reported that this is an ever-growing problem in local feeder programs. With only a few short weeks to go before the season kicks off, only three of the 16 counties within the MYF organization have the numbers to confirm midget teams.