Since 1958, the Naperville Youth Football League, know to players as the NYFL, has been a place for the city’s youth to gather on the gridiron and learn the game.
From age five to thirteen, across twenty teams, the NYFL prepares players to be ready when they hit high school football.
“Last year one of our midgets teams, every single kid started at a high school A team,” said NYFL Board Member Ray Cisco. “They started at five and six-year-old and they’re taught the right way so when they get out on the football field, they already know how to do it at the high school level.”
To improve skills, the league has to be competitive, but, because of the eve present risk of concussions, the league takes safety very seriously.
“We teach the kids the proper way to play football in a safe way,” said Paul Bonamo, the President of NYFL who also coaches in the Pee Wee division. “There’s a lot out there about head injuries and that, and we try to teach the kids the correct way to play to be safe and have fun while you’re playing the game.”
Each year, the athletes are split into teams based on age and play games each Saturday to improve their game play skills. The coaches instruct the younger players from on the field in order to take advantage of every teaching moment.
But many parents like the league more for what their kids learn in between the tackles and touchdowns.
“It’s competitive, yet they’re teaching them fundamentals, they’re teaching them sportsmanship, teamwork. All those things they are going to use throughout their lives not just in sports but in other areas as well,” said Dawn Hoyte, a parent of an NYFL player.
“The last four years we’ve been a really winning team and this year, we aren’t quite there. But, it’s good for them because they’re looking how to lose well,” said Joy Helbing another parent of a player.
At the end of the day, the goal of the league and those who run it have stayed the same over the past 55 years and it’s pretty simple.
“I just hope they learn how to play the game and have fun doing it,” said Bonamo.
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