KINGSTON – Jerry Nastanski is no stranger to football, coaching at several levels from mini leagues through high school competition.
He’s passionate about the game, and enjoys time spent teaching children about all aspects of the sport.
He’s also a realist, and sees a growing trend in the mini-football leagues, known by some as Pop Warner football.
“Participation is down, and the numbers just aren’t there,” he said. “There are teams that don’t even carry an ‘A’ team anymore. Some communities had to come together and they still struggle to form teams. In fact, they have to move some kids from the ‘B’ team up and those kids are playing two games in one day.”
Nastanski also remembers what everyone loved about the sport.
“No matter what level you are at, everyone loved playing touch football,” he said.
Enter the Tri-Football Touch League, which meets every Saturday at Kirby Park.
“Everyone loves to play touch football,” said Nastanski, organizer of the league. “It’s relatively inexpensive to play. You might be paying close to $200 or $300 to play mini football with the equipment and whatever else. Here, you show up, put some cones down and play.”
Nastanski said there are two major aspects to the league — fundamentals and fun.
“We want to teach these kids the fundamentals of the game,” he said. “It could be anything really from how to huddle up, about different passing schemes and routes to even the basic things like terminology and understanding the basic rules.”
The kids, themselves, also dictate some of the rules.
They get to decide different scoring systems, such as the point values associated with kicking extra points or attempting two-point conversions.
The youngsters even have a say of setting the lineups.
“Every series, we try to mix up the positions,” Nastanski said. “That way, every kid gets the opportunity to play and experience different spots on the field. We don’t want the same person playing the same position every series. The kids, they want to understand the game and they want to have fun. Touch football is a great way to do that. Everyone knows about contact football and the issues these days with concussions. It’s one of the biggest problems in sports, and I think parents are sometimes skeptical to allow their children to play football at an early age. To be honest, I think ninth grade is soon enough to play contact football.”
The Tri-Football Touch League is in its infancy stages. The league gets about 25 kids per week.
Nastanski is hoping to make a real push next year to grow and develop the organization.
“We really didn’t have much time to organize it this year,” he said. “We’ve begun talking to some of the businesses about sponsorship. Hopefully, we can get the word out to everyone in Luzerne County and see what kind of interest there is. Who knows? Maybe we could form teams from the different communities. Or match kids up in order to get the best possible game each week.
“We are flexible. We want the kids to play in our league, but we also want them to play fall baseball or youth soccer. We want our kids to have the opportunities. My goal is for these kids to have fun with football without the risk of full contact hits. Some of these youth leagues are practicing in full pads five days per week. The pros don’t even do that anymore. We don’t want to burn these kids out before they reach high school. We want to keep the fun in football.”
The league will continue to meet Saturday mornings right through the weekend before Thanksgiving. If anyone has any questions, you can call Nastanski at 570-852-1808 or email him at email@example.com.