By Connor Adams Sheets
The Rosedale Jets youth football league kicked off the 2011 season Saturday morning with a tremendous turnout by young football players and their parents.
About 250 youths between 6 and 13 years old attended the event, although the season does not even begin until Sept. 11.
But excitement is high about the new year of football, and weekly practices began Saturday with conditioning for the kids, who made it down to Brookville Park for the initiating meeting.
Jacques Léandre, president of the Jets league and one of its coaches, said the event was a huge success, and that the league — which is first-come, first-serve and does not conduct tryouts — has already had to turn away 50 to 75 potential players because it is immensely popular in the southeast Queens community.
But for the kids who do get to play for one of its teams, the reward is more than just training to play the game, it is also a way for them to learn to be good men — and women as the league also offers a cheerleading program for young girls.
“We instill the level of discipline a lot of kids need, especially out here if you look at the crime rate and the low levels of institutions — Rosedale football helps fill that gap,” Léandre said. “I don’t look at this as simply football training. This is more about life skills and life-saving opportunities.”
Yvonne Mitchell, the league’s director of operations, said her experience proves that Rosedale football is a positive influence for many families. Her grandson Malik, now 16, started in the league at the age of 5.
“I came here because I was a grandmother raising my grandson on my own, so I came here for the male influence,” she said. “It’s hard to find that when you’re a single parent or like me a grandparent raising your grandkids.”
Corbett Garret, the league’s vice president and one of its coaches, agreed, saying he sees development in the players he coaches that goes beyond just the physical.
“To the kids it means a lot of structure, discipline and guidance for them,” he said. “A lot of coaches fill the voids of what might be single-family households, so it’s about building young men’s character, shaping minds at a young age.”
For more information about the league, visit rosedalejets.com.
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.