By Phil Corso
The fullbacks, halfbacks and quarterbacks seem to be making a comeback.
A group of northeast Queens football coaches said they were working to bring youth football back to the young and aspiring players in Little Neck, Queens Village and Fresh Meadows.
After almost 10 years, the Long Island Tomahawks youth football organization is returning and recruiting players for the upcoming season, the group said.
And according to the coaches working to revive the team, they are not doing this to look back but instead to blitz ahead.
“We don’t want to just relive our glory days,” said Steve Digilio, the Tomahawks’ coach and organizer. “We are just trying to give back to the kids.”
The Long Island Tomahawks, initially established in the 1950s, became defunct as the group approached the early ’90s and participation dwindled. With a motto of “Never die easy,” Digilio and some Tomahawks alumni orchestrated the team’s first comeback in 2003, which also fizzled out by the following year.
“It takes a lot to get something going and to keep it going,” Digilio said.
But what makes this comeback different, Digilio said, was experience and dedication to bring a special skills set of football to Queens’ kids. In an area where youth football is scarcely available with the only other youth football leagues in Jamaica, Bayside and Ridgewood, Digilio said the Long Island Tomahawks offer a unique level of discipline in its coaching approach.
Often, Digilio said, the coaches would join in on the training and be battling alongside the players during workouts in the team’s previous revival in 2003.
“Our kids are always learning,” Digilio said. “It isn’t about how big and how fast and how strong you might play. It’s about how smart you are on the field.”
Helping Digilio bring back the Tomahawks are former players and participants Tyrone Stith and Wayne Deleston. Stith, who also works with the Youth Sports Network covering local community leagues, wrote on the Tomahawks’ online guest book soliciting interest in reviving the team.
“I am constantly asked about the hole in youth football in Queens Village,” Stith said. “There is a need for a youth football organization in the Queens Village, Hollis and Bellerose area.”
The Long Island Tomahawks’ current home field is at Alley Pond Park in Bellerose and the organization is currently working to form teams for the fall season from ages 8 to 17. Interested athletes can call 646-465-3743 for more information or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Digilio, who has been coaching youth football for almost 40 years, said he was thrilled at the prospect of bringing Tomahawks-style play back to Queens, adding that teaching was a key part of his being.
“I teach kids. It is what God has given me the opportunity to do and it is a passion for me,” Digilio said. “It is a way to keep them off the streets and a way to get them set up for high school football.”
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.