Story by Chris Graham
Football is an expensive sport to get into – from cleats to pads to helmets, and that’s just the start of it.
“The NFL realizes that it’s really important for the health of football in this country that the youth of the United States have to have opportunities to play football – and not only to play, but to play in a safe environment where they have the equipment and the facilities that they need,” said Jay Richardson, the sports and grants manager at the Ashburn-based National Recreation and Park Association, which partners with the National Football League in a local-agency grant program that puts $300,000 annually into youth-football programs across the country.
“The NFL and the member clubs have stepped up to provide funding that’s intended to be used for scholarships for underserved audiences, safety equipment, to properly train coaches and officials, just overall to make youth football better across the country,” Richardson said in an interview for “The SportsDominion Show.”
The grants range between $1,000 and $5,000 and are intended to be used for football programming, scholarships for underserved audiences, safety equipment, training for coaches and officials, and related services – basically the infrastructure of the gridiron game.
“The challenges are there with the cost of equipment – and for kids to have a positive experience in their participation in youth football, they want to feel like they have adequate facilities, adequate equipment, good coaches who know what they’re doing,” Richardson said.
Richardson pointed to a study that has youth-football participation growing rather significantly right now – with the number of kids playing up 6 percent just from 2006 to 2007.
“The number-one indicator that you’re running a good program is that your kids who play this year come back to play next year – then you know you’re doing things right,” Richardson said.
Chris Graham is the executive editor of The SportsDominion.