Thursday, August 21, 2008

Youth Football League needs fields


For more than 35 years, hundreds of local kids have been strapping on football pads and cleats to hit the field for the Santa Barbara Youth Football League.
This year, however, they’re having a little trouble finding a field to call home.

“We’re scrambling,” said Joe Salcedo, athletic director of the local YFL. “People don’t realize how high demand is for fields around Santa Barbara.”
High school and collegiate sports eat up a lot of time on local fields, he said, leaving only select windows for outside groups to hold events.
“Nobody here in town other than City College has that artificial turf,” he added. “Fields get beat up. That’s another big hesitation right there.”
Salcedo said spreading the 12 local teams around city parks will work for practice, but when it comes to games, it’s kind of critical they have all 100 yards.
An introduction jamboree planned for Aug. 30 had to be booked in Santa Ynez, marking one of the few times local teams will travel out of Santa Barbara for the YFL’s opening ceremonies.
Fields in Santa Barbara had already been booked for that weekend, Salcedo said, adding that the league is starting a week earlier than usual, which may have been a factor.
That offers little condolence for one mother whose son plays in the league. She said she’s getting fed up with officials struggling to find a local field.
“They don’t even have schedules for games because they are still trying to negotiate fields,” the mother said, asking to remain anonymous out of worry that her son’s playing time might be affected.
She said her son’s team had been told they might have to travel to Nipomo for the season-opening ceremony.
“There’s going to be travel,” she acknowledged. “But when we have home games, they should be free to get a field without red tape.”
Salcedo said he’s doing his best, trying to work out conflicts with high school teams using fields for football, soccer, even band practice.
He’s even looking into playing surfaces at UC Santa Barbara, although he admitted that might be a stretch.
“That’s going to be doubtful just because their soccer is so big right now,” he said.
Joan Galvan, a spokeswoman for Santa Barbara City College, didn’t know the availability of La Playa Stadium but confirmed it’s a busy venue as well.
“It is amazing how booked out that field is,” she said. “…Some organizations book a year in advance.”
Attempts to reach SBCC athletic director Mike Warren and Santa Barbara city sports supervisor Jeff Smith yesterday were not successful.
As far as high school surfaces go, school districts spokeswoman Barbara Keyani said there is a clear process for booking a field. Users must visit the site and speak with officials at each school to ensure its availability.
“Of course, the first priority is for school use,” she said.
If an open timeframe works, users can fill out a form at the districts’ business office, pay any fees and show proof of insurance.
“We have members of the public using our fields all the time, but that’s the process they have to go through,” Keyani said. “That’s really the responsibility of the people who want to use the field.”
She said each school keeps its own calendar and didn’t have information about the availability of any fields managed by the school districts.
The mother who asked to remain unnamed said the football program, open to kids between 8 and 14 years old, should be a top priority for those who manage local fields.
“With the problem with gangs and our kids getting into trouble on the streets, you’d think people would be offering up the City College,” she said. “…We’re asking for solutions and we’re trying to get kids to participate in these types of activities. They are and they can’t even play in their own house.”
For now, Salcedo said he’ll have to keep working with high school officials, hoping to find enough grass to call home before that first kickoff is due.


davecisar said...

It would be a shame for these kids to miss out on a great experience like youth football, because of poor priorities. The gamne teaches great life lessons and should be given priority.

Anonymous said...

I know what the YFL did for my son growing up in a single parent home. He played for 6 years and is now in high school on the JV team. He still has relationships with his past coaches and has learned discipline, sportsmanship and responsibility. Something needs to be done to help getting a field for this program.