They do this for the love of the game and to promote safe play.
In the Jamestown Area Midget Football League, playing football begins at age 8 and continues until players reach the age of 13. Then it’s on to high school and beyond, if they choose. Players learn teamwork and discipline as well as sportsmanship.
“I like having the aspect of giving back,” said modified Westside coach Jamie Bloomquist. “I was a Jamestown Red Raider. I graduated in 1995. I saw how (former Jamestown coach) Wally Huckno influenced me throughout my life, you know, until I’m a Jamestown Red Raider. And, you know, he motivated everyone. And that’s what I try to do.
And it’s a matter of respect. When Bloomquist speaks to its players, they respond, “Yes sir!”
Other teams in the league include the Southside Blue Devils, Northside Warriors and Dunkirk Marauders.
Bloomquist started coaching at Southside in 2007 with Steve Sischo and Tom Fisher. He said he coached at Southside for about three years and then decided to take time off. Bloomquist started out as a jayvee coach and throughout his time saw players go from jayvees to modified. About eight years ago, Bloomquist started coaching for Westside again.
“And since then, I just love giving back and teaching what I learned to other kids,” he added.
Dunkirk Marauders general manager Phil Collier agrees.
“For me, coaching is a source of inspiration. It’s my soul. It has always been my passion to motivate someone. Necklace said.
Collier has been coaching since about 1998 and was general manager for about six years.
“It teaches you important life values. No other sport, for me, teaches you that except football. Necklace said.
He added that a person cannot accomplish everything by himself. A running back cannot score a touchdown without the offensive line. Games cannot be won if there are not 10 other defensive players assisting that linebacker.
Bloomquist said 8- and 9-year-olds play in the junior variety; 10- and 11-year-olds play college; and 12 and 13 year olds play on the modified team. He said the modified squad is made up of seventh- and eighth-year players. Bloomquist emphasizes the fundamentals of gambling and teaches how to play it safe.
On the training ground, you can hear the coaches giving instructions and evaluating how the players are learning their positions.
Northside head coach Brian Bigelow got into coaching a little differently.
“It started as an activity” said Bigelow. “I was one of those secondary parents.”
What happened, he said, was that he started an argument with former head coach Mark Panebianco. Bigelow said Panebianco told him if he didn’t like the way things were done he should sign up to become a coach.
” That’s exactly what I did. When he resigned, I took his place in his place. Bigelow added.
Bigelow has been coaching since 2015 and he’ll be the first to tell anyone it’s a labor of love.
“It’s my therapy” Bigelow noted.
For some of the players, the coaches are the only male role models they have in their lives consistently for three to four months a year. He and the other coaches are trying to rebuild Northside into a family environment where players can have someone they can rely on all year round.
“Northside is in my heart and soul. My personal success as a coach is not judged by wins and losses, but if those kids come back and want to play for me again year after year,” said Bigelow.
Car Fisher, general manager of Southside, has been a coach for nearly 33 years. One of his assistant coaches, Steve Sischo, has been with the Southside program for 26 years, but has been coaching for about 42 years. He said he had six jayvee coaches three of whom were former players under Fisher; two of his modified coaches have also played for him while his son is in charge of the flag football team.
“I started here (in Southside) in 1990 when my son was nine. I liked it so much I stayed,” said Fisher.
Over the years he has coached several sports including Bambino Baseball, Babe Ruth Baseball and YPL Basketball. And he enjoyed them all.
“No program succeeds if you don’t surround yourself with the right people. We try as hard as we can to emulate the (Jamestown) high school curriculum,” said Fisher. “I like to keep people who are involved.”
Trying to emulate the Jamestown program, Fisher said he uses the same rosters and terminology with his varsity and modified teams.
Matches are being played at Dunkirk, Strider Field, Persell Middle School and Roseland Park this year. The grounds at Washington Middle School are being repaired.
Community support and trust is important, and the community is getting really excited, Bigelow said.
Video link: https://youtu.be/Rly7CdjnKvo