“At this age the young ones look up to the high school players like NFL stars,” says American Youth Football (AYF) Red Bank Buccaneer’s President Scott Navitsky.
The young ones, he referred to, are the AYF players ages 7 to 13 from the Red Bank Regional (RBR) sending towns of Little Silver, Red Bank and Shrewsbury. They proudly donned their maroon football jerseys (nearly identical to their big brother Buccaneers) while, for the second year, the AYF allowed the RBR football players to lead the day’s practice.
The players instructed the students in drills used at the high school and offered rationale for each move. Camouflaging helmets attached to little bodies nodded continually in understanding and admiration. While, the high school students were in charge for just one day, they have been a presence all year at the AYF practices as volunteers to the coaches.
RBR Athletic Director Del Dal Pra, who has his three sons in the AYF program, comments, “Most of our boys came up through the AYF and this evening marks the beginning of relationship-building between the future Buccaneers and their upper classman."
The day also reflects a deeper relationship that has been forged over the past few years between the high school football program and their natural feeder AYF program. The AYF, the successor to the Pop Warner Football and Cheerleading program, organizes football and cheerleading for the three sending towns to RBR.
President Navisky believes he already sees the benefit to that relationship noting that this year’s freshman team at 40 is the largest in the school’s history. RBR’s football program has also been improving steadily over the past few years. This year’s freshman team also went to the AYF conference championship last year and enters RBR looking forward to a bright future. President Navisky also has three sons in the program with his oldest transitioning to the RBR Freshman team in September.
Navitsky adds, “We firmly believe, as does RBR’s football coach and athletic director, that a successful football program starts at this level (with the AYF players.)”