June 19, 2013
Fluvanna County is planning to vote Wednesday night on whether to pay for a new youth football team for seventh graders.
Supporters say there are dozens of seventh graders in the county who want to play football, but cannot, because they are too big for Pop Warner teams, and don't have transportation to other teams in Charlottesville.
Jerry Custer has been pushing for more than a month for Fluvanna County to fund the team.
"When I saw the need, the absence of an age group, I wanted to try to do something," Custer said.
"Anytime you have a home town team, it's good because the kids will play together though their high school years."
Jason Smith, the director of Fluvanna County Parks and Recreation, says the football team is a good idea for another reason.
"Keep some of the kids off the street," Smith said. "Keep them occupied in doing something constructive."
Smith says the county is prepared to protect potential players against concussions, because the league would buy new equipment.
"Hand-me-downs is not an option," Smith said. "It's even more crucial to provide the right equipment."
Custer says the kids can be protected with proper coaching.
"Teach them techniques," said Custer. "Proper way to block, tackle."
"There are real dangers in any sport," said Bob Ullenbruch, a member of the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors. The board plans to decide, Wednesday night, whether to fund the team. It would cost an estimated $13,000 for the county. Most of that cost would be purchasing new helmets and pads for the expected 40 players.
Ullenbruch is more concerned about whether the county can cover the costs.
"It's a great idea, it's just the funding," he said. "That seems to be a problem."
Ullenbruch is also concerned that, if the county funds a youth football team, other sports will come forward asking for money that the county can't spare.
"If we approve it, it sets a precedent," Ullenbruch said.
Custer has been organizing fundraisers to help take the budget pressure off the county. However, the deadline for funding is approaching, since Custer and other parents want the team to be organized for this fall.
Custer says, he prefers to have more of his local tax money spent on parks and recreation.
"I am a true believer that area's parks and rec should run the sports programs," Ullenbruch said.