It is with a VERY heavy heart that I have to let everyone know that the Panthers will not be returning to the NYFL for the 2013 NYFL spring season. Unfortunately the NYFL recently made some changes to their age & weight chart that I feel are unsafe & I can not in good conscience put my name on a head coaches contract with them much less assume the responsibility for the safety of 5 teams worth of children. This is going to be a long post but being that we are dealing with the safety of our children I hope that those of you that have found your way here will take the time to read & understand exactly what is at stake here.
I understand that there is no “perfect system” & I understand that you can’t make everyone happy. However, what I have always advocated is that we create an environment that is safe for all the kids we introduce to this sport so that they will want to return & continue playing. I feel it is our place as coaches & mentors to seek out the solution that is the LEAST imperfect & it is my firm belief that at this point in time the NYFL has created a situation that is contrary to everything we set out to create the Panthers for.
League age date can be a VERY confusing subject so in order for all of this to hopefully all make sense I feel I should explain what “league age date” means. The league age date is the date a league uses to determine how old a player is for the purposes of placing a player in a given division. For instance, the age bracket for the JV division is 11-12. If the league age date is March 2nd then any child that is 11 or 12 on March 2nd would play in the JV division regardless of how old they may have been on March 1st or how old they will be on March 3rd.
Now, for as long as I can remember the NYFL has had a league age date that fell at (or at least near) the beginning of the season with very few exceptions. The downside to this model is that you end up with kids being in a division that have technically aged out of it. That means that despite it being an 11-12 year old division, any league age 12 player in JV could actually be 13 years old if their birthday falls after the league age date but before the end of the season. In order to counter this fact & help protect the younger, smaller players the league has always followed a system similar to what Pop Warner does by implementing weight limits so that kids at the upper end of the age bracket, in this case the 13 year olds, would only be able to remain in the JV division if they were under a certain weight limit.
Unfortunately that all changed now this season; the NYFL has removed weight limits from all divisions besides the starts where 8 years olds can only play if they are 90 pounds or less but have to move up to rookies if they are 91 pounds or more. In the initial release of the age & weight chart the NYFL sought to protect the younger kids by moving the league age date from the beginning of the season to the end of it; May 31st. To illustrate how this impacts the league we’ll take a look at the JV division again. In order to be eligible to play in the JV division you would have to be 11 or 12 on May 31st…since May 31st is at the end of the season, after all the games would be done, that would mean that there would never be a case where a 13 year old could “play down” to that level. Despite some people having concerns about the unlimited weights I felt it was a very good compromise because the league both narrowed the age spread (2 years instead of 3) AND by moving the league age date to the end of the season they helped to ensure that kids couldn’t play down.
However, last week I received an email from Kyle (NYFL President) stating that the league age date was moved to March 2nd. Being that games are scheduled to be played between March 3rd (the Jamboree) & May 18th that would now mean that not only will the kids weights be unlimited but also that they can in fact age out of their division. Again using JV as an example, any children that are ages 11 or 12 on March 2nd will play JV…even if their 13th birthday falls on March 3rd and they will effectively be 13 for the entire season.
Now since I called Kyle to inquire about the change & argue to have it reverted I have spoken with him & Kathy (who ran the DYFL for the past years but is now helping Kyle since the DYFL & NYFL have merged) several times & have been given 3 reason for the change…none of which makes much sense to me and are the basis for why I have chosen not to return this season. Here are the 3 reasons:
1) The league claimed that if the league age date is at the end of the season it would create a separation of 36 months between the youngest & the oldest players in any given division.
2) I was told that the NYFL has moved to an unlimited weight scale with a league age date at the beginning of the season because that’s what “everyone else is doing” & they are tired of “losing players to our competition”.
3) There is a scenario where a child on the lower end of the age chart would never reach that divisions age despite having to play in it. Using the JV division again it is possible that there might be a child who is 10 years old and who’s 11th birthday falls after the final game of the season on May 18th but before the league age date of May 31st. Despite never having played a game at age 11 he would have to play in the JV (11-12 year old) division. The league’s final stance was that this child must be protected.
Now I am going to attempt to refute all 3 of these “reasons” for this rule change:
1) As far as the 36 months goes, I spent the better part of an hour and a half trying, unsuccessfully I might add, to run those numbers to find a separation this great. Below you will see the model I finally built to show that no such gap exists…
- · Youngest player in the division
o League Age 11
o Born on May 31st
o Age at the start of the season – 10 yrs & 9 mos or 129 mos old
o Age at the end of the season – Just turned 11yrs old on the league age date
- · Oldest player in the division
o League age 12
o Born June 1st
o Age at start of season – 12 yrs & 9 mos or 153 mos old
o Age at the end of the season – Still 12 but 1 day before his 13th birthday
- · Difference in age between the 2 players: 24 mos (153 mos – 129 mos)
League Age Date March 2nd
- Youngest player in the division
o League Age 11
o Born on March 2nd
o Age at the start of the season – Turned 11 yrs old on opening day or 132 mos
o Age at the end of the season – 11 yrs & 3 mos old
- Oldest player in the division
o League age 12
o Born March 3rd
o Age at the start of the season – Still 12 but 1 day before his 13th birthday 156 mos
o Age at the end of the season – 13 yrs & 3 mos old
- Difference between the 2 players on opening day: 24 mos (156 mos – 132 mos)
As you can see it really doesn’t matter which league age date you use, the maximum difference between the youngest player & the oldest player that could possibly play in the same division would be 24 months. Based on the example I presented above I am a little confused by how someone feels that a cutoff date that falls at the end of the season would result in a 36 month span between the youngest & the oldest players.
2) As mentioned above, the next excuse I was given for why the NYFL is allowing UNLIMITED weight kids that have aged out of their division to play down was because they want to be more competitive & we keep losing kids to all these other leagues that are doing unlimited weights with league age dates that fall at the beginning of the season. Thinking that maybe there was some validity to this argument I did some more research on my own & for the record here are a cpl of links for you to take a look at:
- SNYSA (Middle School League) – If you scroll below the actual registration order form to where you have to check the box for which team you are registering your child for you can clearly see that yes, they are unlimited weight but that their league age date is obviously the end of the year by the statement “11-12 Year Olds who do not turn 13 years old during 2013”. This is just the example for the 11-12 year old division obviously but if you follow the link & see for yourself you will notice that the language is the same across the board
- Pop Warner – If you take a look at their age & weight chart their league age date is actually at the beginning of the season, like you guys are advocating BUT they have weight limits in every single division besides their highest division (Unlimited) which is unlimited, however, there is another bracket for the lighter kids that risk injury to go to (Midget).
3) The final argument I was given as to why we cannot have a league age date that falls at the end of the season is because there could be a child in a division that never meets the minimum age for that division (See example above). The league’s argument here is that we should protect this child who’s birthday falls within this less than 2 week window because how would we ever be able to explain to that child’s parent why it is that (s)he has to move up to a bracket when (s)he won’t ever even be that age at all during the season. I totally understand & feel for this VERY small group of children, however, the flip side to that is what you create by putting the league age date at the beginning of the season. Now you have a scenario where a child could be older than the bracket he is playing in AND have no weight restrictions. This has been a nightmare for the league for as long as I have been here & that was when there were at least weight restrictions to help offset it.
I imagine most everyone knows the story about a certain super stud ball player on the Chargers JV team last season…Kyle had so many complaints about how much damage that kid was single handedly doing in the division that he finally had to go to the kids school himself to meet the parents so he could verify the documentation he was being given wasn’t falsified. Or how about the 9 yr old on the 49ers starts team who was the source of weeks worth of controversy in that division…both of these kids were held down in their respective divisions because their birthday’s fell a few days after the league age date. So, instead of having to explain to those cpl of parents why their kids would have to move up a division (league age date at the end of the season), the league spent COUNTLESS hours trying to explain to dozens of parents why these 2 kids were allowed to be held down. I know the argument about the 49ers starts player went on for several weeks & resulted in at least 1 physical altercation (almost a 2nd) & the situation with the Chargers player went on for nearly the entire season & resulted in 2 coaches being temporarily suspended; ultimately those coaches chose not come back after last season (they are now with the SNYSA). Now, on top of all that we want to make the divisions unlimited weight?!? it was bad enough when we at least had a weight restriction on the top end of each tier to protect the younger kids…I can’t even begin to imagine how this season is going to play out.
As of right now I have no intention of trying to move the camp to another league for the spring; unfortunately I just don’t think there is enough time. I have asked that Kyle hold the Panther name for us at least until next season because I am holding on to hope that they see the error of their ways & either move the league age date or add weight limits back. If they choose not to, however, I have already opened up dialogs with a cpl of other leagues to see if we can find another home. I have always been a supporter of the adage that the grass is NOT always greener on the other side & I definitely DO NOT want to leave the NYFL but as I said earlier, I can’t in good conscience be responsible for so many children under this rule set. In fact, someone within the NYFL organization itself even told me that they would not allow their kids to play in the league under these rules.
Also, just to illustrate how against this I am, my own son is 8 but turns 9 on March 4th. He would be able to remain in the starts under the current rules but would have to move up to rookies if I got the date moved to the end of the season…my only motive for wanting this is to ensure the safety of the children I am charged to be responsible for.