Latrobe: Proposed youth football programs spark debate

Sign up for one of our email newsletters.Updated 11 hours ago Greater Latrobe officials are looking to form a school-based youth football program, citing a desire to have a uniform feeder organization for the district's junior high and varsity gridiron...

Latrobe: Proposed youth football programs spark debate

Sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Updated 11 hours ago

Greater Latrobe officials are looking to form a school-based youth football program, citing a desire to have a uniform feeder organization for the district's junior high and varsity gridiron teams.

The proposal, slated for a school board vote Feb. 28, is dovetailing with regrouping efforts by youth football programs in Mt. Pleasant and Connellsville — to create a new regional league for all three communities.

Proponents are planning for both the Greater Latrobe school program and the regional youth league, provisionally dubbed Fay West, to begin playing games this year. But leaders of two independent Latrobe-area youth football groups are questioning the need for a school program to duplicate the opportunities they already provide.

“The district believes there are more kids out there that aren't playing now, and we need to build the numbers and start our own feeder teams,” said Greater Latrobe Athletic Director Mark Mears. His goal is to have 15 to 20 players enrolled in each of three grade levels: K-2, which would play flag football; 3-4; and 5-6.

Until now, he said, most youth players in the district have started out in one of four independent leagues — including Greater Latrobe Area Midget Football Association (GLAMFA) and the Unity Township Youth Football and Cheerleading Association.

“You potentially have kids learning four different offenses and four different defenses. Then they come to us in eighth grade and none of them know our offense or defense,” Mears said.

Director Brian Noel said the Unity program, which fielded about 45 players last fall, intends to continue next season despite potential competition from the district for enrollment. “If we can stick it out by keeping all the kids, we're going to do it,” he said.

Noel isn't buying the district's arguments for starting its new program. He said his organization teaches basic skills to players and had no success trying to introduce more involved aspects to align with the high school teams.

“If you try to get too complicated, you just end up confusing these kids,” he said.

President Wasil Waleski said fundamentals also are the focus of GLAMFA, which had 55 players dress last season. Citing strong parental support, he isn't worried about losing enrollment to other programs, but he suggested the new school-based program could lead to oversaturation.

“It kind of weakens the system the more teams you have in the area,” he said. “It spreads out the already limited number of players.”

Waleski and Noel each expressed concern that the district could spend taxpayer dollars to replicate what already exists in their two self-sufficient programs.

Following startup costs for uniforms and equipment, the budget for maintaining the volunteer-staffed program would be minimal, Mears said. He suggested some of the money generated through an annual Steelers Night at the district's Memorial Stadium might help defray costs.

Organizer Brandon Caletri is among those hoping for success for the new Fay West youth league. Caletri, who also is president of the Mt. Pleasant Area Junior Football League, said the group couldn't continue as an intramural program after shrinking from five teams to two and decided to join forces with its counterpart in Connellsville, which has experienced its own drop-off in numbers.

He said the Fay West league proposal became even better when Mears indicated Greater Latrobe was interested. “I think it's a good thing, communities coming together to try to help kids develop their skills,” Caletri said.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6622 or jhimler@tribweb.com.

Our editors found this article on this site using Google and regenerated it for our readers.

NEXT NEWS