Football is the sport of choice for any red-blooded American come autumn. But while many locals devote themselves to NFL teams or root for high school athletes beneath Friday night lights, there is another form of football with some serious traction in Chautauqua County. The league in question is different than most, if only because a majority of players won’t tip the scales past 100 pounds. It is, of course, midget football.
Already this fall, hundreds of kids (and parents in tow) have begun converging across Chautauqua County for midget football games on the weekends. The athletes take the field uniformed in bulbous helmets and bulging shoulder pads, and like any other football team, they pass, they tackle, and they run for touchdowns. And they do so all under the umbrella of the Jamestown Area Midget Football League (JAMFL).
This week, JAMFL Commissioner Branden Maggio sat down with the Jamestown Gazette to explain the league, and midget football, in further detail. Read on to learn about the history of JAMFL, the league’s current football teams, and why midget football may just be the most entertaining form of football around.
Cortney: Can you tell me a bit about the history of the league?
Maggio: The league is over 50 years old now. It’s been around for what seems like forever. It originally started with just four Jamestown teams, but then it expanded out to Falconer, Frewsburg, Southwestern, Dunkirk and Fredonia. Now it’s gotten a bit smaller again, so we currently have five teams: three Jamestown teams, a Dunkirk team and a Fredonia team. Then within each team we have three age groups: modified, JV and Varsity. So there’s actually 15 football teams in total.
Cortney: What can you tell me about the kids that make up the teams?
Maggio: The kids are broken into age groups: usually 9 and 10, 11 and 12, and then 12 to 14, though it really depends on their grade levels. It’s not just boys, either: girls are welcome to play too. I believe we do have a few participating this year. Then we offer cheerleading as well.
Cortney: What is the core mission of JAMFL?
Maggio: Athletically, it’s to prepare them for high school, for that next level of football. But our true objective is just to teach kids leadership, accountability, and discipline. We want to try to help them become better people. That’s really the goal of youth sports.
Cortney: Where do you find the coaches for this program?
Maggio: They typically volunteer, step up and ask to participate. Most of our coaches stay with us for a long time: we have some that have been in the league for almost 30 years now. All of our coaches also have to take a certification course through USA Football. So everyone that’s out there is certified to coach football; everyone has training.
Cortney: Midget football games always seem to draw a crowd. What do you think is exciting about watching young kids play as opposed to more skilled athletes?
Maggio: You never know what you’re going to get from game to game. The kids are so excited and they really have a lot of fun on the field. They’re competitive, sure, but they’re just having so much fun. You notice that. You also really get to watch them develop over the years, especially within our three age divisions. A lot of parents will stay and watch all three games, because then they get a chance to see how the kids’ skill levels increase over time.
For more information on JAMFL, visit the league’s Facebook page @ Jamestown Area Midget Football League.
To read more of Cortney Linnecke’s creative and informative contributions to the Jamestown Gazette, please go to www.jamestowngazette.com.