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Youth football could be tackled

WBFO News by photo Mike Desmond

A proposal to bar tackle football for those under the age of 11 is drawing fire from a state senator from Buffalo and local youth football leagues.

Bronx Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, a former teacher, wants Albany to limit youth football. The lawmaker says he wants to protect children from the increasing concerns over concussions and the lasting  health effects.

But Assemblyman Benedetto doesn't have a Senate sponsor and Senator Timothy Kennedy says he wants to make sure he doesn't get one.

The Buffalo democrat appeared Thursday with local football coaches, some players and, even a team mom or two to attack the plan.  They appeared together the steps of the Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavillion at Jefferson and Best. 

Credit WBFO News photo by Mike Desmond
Group gathers in Buffalo in favor of youth football

Canisius High School coach Rich Robbins says many of his freshman didn't play youth football.

"I'd say it's about 5o-50, and you can definitely tell the difference with the boys that come out of our local youth football programs that have been taught the way to tackle," said Robbins. "We've had less injures and less issues with those kids then the kids that unfortunately didn't have the opportunity to play football before high school."

Robbins said it shouldn't be up to Albany to control the sport, but instead the family sitting around the kitchen table.

Kennedy said he played four-years of football at traditional rival St. Joe's and saw that same difference.

"I had never played youth football personally, but there was a demonstrated difference, an advantage that the kids I played football with at St. Joe's that had played youth football knew the tackling techniques they knew not to lead with their head," said Kennedy.

Many of the coaches say the young men who play youth football learn skills for the sport and find male role models for future life.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.