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2015-12-09 / Sports

New youth football league avoids ‘death penalty’

By Jim McConnell
STAFF WRITER


The Chesterfield Steelers are one of four county teams that joined the fledgling Virginia Youth Football League for the fall 2015 season. Despite issues with the league’s administration, the county’s parks and recreation department has decided to grant it conditional co-sponsorship next year. 
Jim McConnell/Chesterfield Observer The Chesterfield Steelers are one of four county teams that joined the fledgling Virginia Youth Football League for the fall 2015 season. Despite issues with the league’s administration, the county’s parks and recreation department has decided to grant it conditional co-sponsorship next year. Jim McConnell/Chesterfield Observer After an inaugural season that opened with multiple on-field altercations and ended with questions about its administration, Chesterfield’s newest youth football league has been given a second chance to get its house in order.

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission voted unanimously last week to offer conditional county co-sponsorship to the Virginia Youth Football League next year but prohibited the league from bringing in additional teams until at least 2017.

The league also is required to submit all required fees and provide team rosters to parks and recreation staff prior to the start of its 2016 season. If those conditions aren’t met, it won’t be allowed to hold games at countyowned athletic facilities.

“We could’ve imposed the death penalty and said that we weren’t going to give you co-sponsorship at all,” commission member Raymond Marsh told the league’s president, Ronald Irving, during last week’s meeting.

The league was formed earlier this year after three local teams – the Chesterfield Falcons, Chesterfield Steelers and Capital City Blackhawks – ended their affiliation with the Chesterfield Metro Youth Football League.

A fourth team, the Ettrick Trojans, joined the Virginia Youth Football League after breaking away from the Chesterfield Quarterback League.

Stacey Hayes, president of the Ettrick Youth Sports Association, acknowledged that the players and coaches enjoyed a higher level of competition in the new league, which, unlike CQL, doesn’t restrict children above a specific weight threshold from carrying the ball.

But Hayes was not impressed with VAYFL’s leadership structure. “Too many things were not done the right way,” he said.

For example, Hayes claimed that he was “blown plum out of the water” when he was notified recently that the Ettrick association owed the county $390 in nonresident fees.

Parks and recreation regulations specify that no more than 15 percent of the participants in its co-sponsored youth sports organizations can reside outside Chesterfield.

Ettrick exceeded that threshold and was required to pay a $15 fee for each of its 26 nonresident participants.

Hayes blamed VAYFL officials for failing to inform its members about the 15 percent rule.

“That’s never going to bite me again,” he said.

According to a document provided by parks and recreation, three of the league’s four Chesterfield-based teams – the Falcons, Trojans and Blackhawks – got more than 15 percent of their players and cheerleaders from outside the county.

None of the county’s other co-sponsored youth sports groups exceeded the 15 percent threshold during the fall 2015 season.

VAYFL officials also failed to submit team rosters by the deadline specified in the league’s co-sponsorship agreement.

Because it didn’t have the rosters, parks and recreation staff was unable to verify the league’s number of nonresident participants until last month.

“This group was aware of when everything was supposed to be turned in. We gave them every opportunity to do what they were supposed to do, and they didn’t do it,” Marsh said.

Parks and recreation typically takes a laissez faire approach toward its co-sponsored groups, preferring to let volunteers manage local leagues as long as they comply with regulations.

“Part of the reason we recommended a conditional co-sponsorship for VAYFL is because they haven’t shown that they can follow the rules,” said Ron Maxey, chairman of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission. “We have to have a little control. We’re not just going to let them run roughshod through the community.”

In order to eliminate any lingering confusion over their co-sponsorship requirements, Parks and Recreation Director Mike Golden said that his staff is developing a memorandum of understanding for VAYFL and its member teams.

That document will specify that the league is prohibited from expanding beyond its current membership next year.

While Irving acknowledged that the fledgling league has had administrative problems, he said it was improper for the county to impose restrictions on adding new teams.

“You can’t stop an organization from growing … that’s just trying to keep us down,” he added.

Marsh, though, called it a fair punishment.

“Why should you be allowed to grow when you haven’t shown you can handle what you already have?” asked commission member Earnest Harris.

Hayes, who said he has heard about two or three local teams that are exploring a move to VAYFL, offered a note of caution based on Ettrick’s experience.

“Folks say the grass isn’t always greener on the other side,” he said. “I’m 50, and I just learned that this year.”

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