Colonial teams unite to form new youth football league
Officers elected for the Colonial Youth Football League were: From left, David Albertson - Northwestern and CYFL President, Jeff Ricci - Southern Lehigh and CYFL Secretary, Arden Miller - Williams, Scott Scoff - Northern Lehigh and CYFL Vice President, Rich Jennings - Salisbury, Bobby Smith - Palisades, Mike Long - Wilson and CYFL Treasurer.
It started with a simple phone call in December.
The members of the Palisades Pirates Youth Football Association (PPYFA) wanted to bring together the heads of youth feeder systems of the Colonial League's teams and see if forming a new league was feasible.
David Albertson, football director from the Northwestern Youth Athletic Association (NYAA), and Rich Jennings, who serves in the same capacity for the Salisbury Youth Association (SYA), were both among those in attendance.
Less than 60 days later, Albertson and Jennings were signing the paperwork to commit their organizations to the new, seven-team Colonial Youth Football League (CYFL).
"There was an urgency on our part," Jennings said. "We thought that now was the time to do it and we really wanted to see if we could get it to happen. Every guy from every organization has been a pleasure to work with.
"The focus has been about the children and it being a fun, family-friendly experience."
The league combines seven youth organizations from six different school districts and combined teams that had played previously in three different leagues.
The founding members along with PPYFA, NYAA and SYA are the Southern Lehigh Youth Football Association, Northern Lehigh Youth Athletic Association, Wilson Midget Football Association and Williams Township Athletic Association (another Wilson feeder program).
Albertson was tabbed as the CYFL's first president.
"It was a lot of hard work and a lot of compromise from each of the teams," he said. "We came from three different leagues with different ages and weight limits, but we got it done."
The league will consist of four divisions: flags, 90 pounders, 110 pounders and 130 pounders. Unlike in the Lehigh Valley League, where Northwestern, Salisbury, Northern Lehigh and Southern Lehigh played, there will be a 25-pound weight cap in each division. Additionally, no one turning 14 at any point in the calendar year of the season will be allowed to participate. Children that turn 13 before September 1 must play in the 130 pound division.
The Bux-Mont and Blue Mountain Leagues, where Palisades, Wilson and Williams Township played, all had hard caps on weight limits. The Lehigh Valley League had no weight cap, but required players over the weight limit, or "heavies," to play on the offensive and defensive line.
"A lot of the teams had some dissatisfaction with their current leagues," Jennings said. "In the Lehigh Valley League, we had a lot of safety concerns. Some of the teams had kids that were 200 pounds playing on the line going up against 11-year olds."
Albertson knew about the concerns firsthand. Northwestern had six different players suffer concussions last season, two of which were "on the severe side." That led the NYAA to implement concussion training for their coaches in accordance with the Center for Disease Control's (CDC) guide for youth sports.
That policy will be enacted for the CYFL and, much like in the NFL, players will have to pass baseline tests.
"If a player gets a concussion, it'll result in removal from the football program as the standard protocol," Albertson said. "Protocol says they must be removed from play until evaluated by a health professional. I think the national trend is you're going to see more concussions reported because of these new protocols. In the past a lot of signs and symptoms were never reported."
But in the future, more leagues will be required to have concussion policies due to new laws recently passed in several states. Pennsylvania is in the process of passing such laws, but the CYFL will be ahead of the curve.
Like in Pop Warner leagues, where Palisades played, minimum playing time requirements will have to be met by each player. After three quarters, players not up to their maximum plays will start the fourth quarter and play until they've reached that number. Two people from each team will be in charge of tracking plays.
"We think we've brought the best of the different rules together in our league," Albertson said. "Safety and participation in the Colonial League were our main goals and that was really the catalyst for getting this done."
While only six of the 12 Colonial League schools are represented, more may join in the next year. Representatives from Saucon Valley, Palmerton, Bangor and Pen Argyl attended all the meetings involving the creation of the bylaws, but didn't commit to the league for the 2011 season. Notre Dame and Catasauqua were at the initial meeting called by Palisades, but opted to stick with their current leagues.
If the Colonial League expands in the future, any new schools added would be allowed to have their feeder teams in the CYFL, but for now, it's limited to the dozen schools that currently comprise the league.
"It's pretty amazing that these kids are going to get to play against each other from flags all the way through high school," Jennings said. "We're all trying to feed kids into our middle school programs, and hopefully this will help everyone do that."