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Fall YMCA Football League Gets Benched

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 A 10 and Under Boys and Girls Club league football game begins Saturday morning. The Panthers played the Irish at Newberry High School.
A 10 and Under Boys and Girls Club league football game begins Saturday morning. The Panthers played the Irish at Newberry High School.” credit=”Robin Andrews / WUFT News

One less youth football league will hit the field this fall.

The North Central Florida YMCA youth flag football league has been sidelined due to lack of registered participants, which typically consists of at least 100 children. This change may be permanent.

“We usually do have enough to fill the teams to play the tournament, but this year we did not have enough to make it a worthwhile program for the kids,” said John Bonacci, CEO of the North Central Florida YMCA.

Gainesville’s collegiate influence has spurred a market with too many organizations pursuing little league football teams, he said.

Throw a stone in any direction and you’re going to hit someone who’s starting a league, Bonacci said.

The YMCA league runs flag football instead of tackle in consideration of possible injuries and to provide accessibility in an area where families are less likely to be able to afford the costs of proper equipment and safety gear.

Due to the fact the Gainesville area is saturated with football teams, some parents, such as Krista Philpot, believe that competition and location are the biggest issues for the YMCA when there are leagues closer to home.

“I want my boy to play local, personally. So that may be it, instead of taking them to the ‘Y,’” said Philpot, team mom for the 10 and Under Boys and Girls Club Panthers.

Summer Hester, another Panther mom, said she would never face the time and traffic of a commute from Newberry to Gainesville for a YMCA practice.

The other YMCA’s fall sports are continuing their seasons as planned.

While no affected families’ personal information was released, Bonacci said he presumes children who missed out on the YMCA league either joined another organization’s league or switched to a different sport at the YMCA.

And while parents received full refunds, the YMCA did not lose any money due to the cancellations because its goal for each season is to simply break even.

“We don’t have the budget to lose money on it. Can’t afford to, but we’re not looking to make a profit off of these kids either,” Bonacci said.

The league was canceled in a time of financial analysis. The YMCA can’t be competitive in its current financial state even though the demand for football isn’t weakening. 

The YMCA is currently conducting a small-scale version of a market study to assess if the community needs its football league.

“We are reevaluating the entire program as to what sports we should be moving forward with and what sports we just don’t have the resources to be competitive,” he said.

During the reevaluation, the YMCA is keeping its main goals in mind: giving youth an outlet, getting them off the streets, providing a safe environment with positive influences and moving away from technology in a fight against childhood obesity.

While the YMCA redesigns its programs, many other organizations are still romping fields this fall.

About Robin Andrews

Robin is a reporter for WUFT News who may be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news @wuft.org

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