Minor football still hoping to play
The Niagara Regional Minor Football Association (Football Niagara) isn’t letting the COVID-19 pandemic stop its planning for its flag, house league tackle and fall travel league programs.
“To be honest, we all know that there is a real possibility that football is not going to happen,” NRMFA director Jim Storin said. “It is just the way things are going, however, we want to be prepared in case it does happen.
“We want to be able to hit the ground running, mid-June or early July, whenever we get the green light from the province and the OFA (Ontario Football Alliance).”
They are planning to have the schedule and jerseys ready to go as soon as possible.
“We have been working with multiple different schedules,” he said. “We don’t want to give anyone false hope but we also don’t want people to think that we are just going to shut it down.”
Two schedules have already been created for the tackle season — a six-game one and a four-game version — and they will run into late August as opposed to early August.
For the flag football season, which was originally scheduled to run from April 18 until the end of June, there are multiple options, including operating the program in the fall.
Storin and the NRMFA plan to make its programs affordable for all.
“Obviously whatever we offer will be at a dramatically reduced price whether it’s flag or tackle, keeping in mind that a lot of people are out of work right now or they may not be making what they normally make at work,” he said. “We want to keep that in mind and we don’t want to break the bank with anybody.”
The goal is to allow kids to play.
‘We want them to come out and get some exercise, especially since they have been cooped up for the last while,” he said. “It’s also to give the parents a bit of a break.”
The association is motivated by its love of football.
“We know what it has done for us and we want to make sure kids have that opportunity as well,” Storin said.
He was happy with the registration received for flag football, with about 100 kids signing up for the new program. Storin felt the numbers would have been even better if its free flag football clinic hadn’t been cancelled by the pandemic. A few registrations have even come in since the social distancing rules came into effect.
“For our first kick at the can and with some competition out there, I think we did OK.”
Any registrations paid will be completely refunded by the organization.
The group was also pleased with the registration for house league tackle.
“We are still a little low at the atom level which has been the norm for the last couple of years, but are bantam numbers are through the roof this year,” he said. “I cannot believe how many bantam (age 13-14) kids and if we have a league, we will have five full teams.”
Peewee (11-12) registration is also holding its own and is especially strong in St. Catharines and Niagara Falls.
“I would like to see them even higher, but with this pandemic, it (registration) just kind of stopped.”
The association is hoping the Niagara Generals fall travel football program will be able to run as planned.
“If the OFL (Ontario Football League) says we are doing it, we are doing it,” Storin said. “And we’re hoping more of the (house league) who didn’t play this summer or didn’t play as much will say they want to play in the fall and maybe it will boost our Generals’ numbers.”
The association is thankful for its great connections with the District School Board of Niagara and the City of St. Catharines to be able to secure a lot of fields.
“We have been around for 20 years and this is not new to us. We can run stuff and reach out and just do it,” Storin said.
But they will need assistance.
“We will need a lot of help, volunteers and that sort of stuff to make it work and we are going to reach out to our community partners as well and ask for a hand.”
The NRMFA is lucky that it has the flexibility to turn on a dime.
“Other organizations don’t have that because they are at the mercy of other leagues dictating how they can run their organization.”
Registrations are still being accepted at www.footballniagara.com. No registration fees will be required but signing up will allow the association to let interested players and parents know if and when things are starting up.