My turn: Rule violation put Juneau youth team in harm's way

Posted: Friday, September 04, 2009

The letter to the editor on Sept. 3 written by Dr. Elliot J. Bruhl provided a perspective of the first of several games scheduled in the 2009 season between the Junior and Senior division teams from the Juneau Youth Football and the Sitka Youth Football leagues. JYFL appreciates having a volunteer physician on the sidelines to assist with field emergencies and to respond to the health and safety of our youth.

Upon review of the game footage and after hearing comments and concerns shared by more than a dozen JYFL coaches, parents and players, it is clear that there were other issues that contributed to the early departure of the JYFL teams from the field. After reviewing player rosters provided to us by the Sitka coaching staff after the game, it was determined that the Sitka Junior Division team was out of compliance with rules, which set grade limits for players in all divisions. It was agreed upon by both leagues.

Sitka's violation of this rule put our 5th and 6th graders in harm's way. According to the roster submitted by Sitka, 5 of the 13 players were eligible. Of the ineligible players, six were in 7th grade and one was in 8th grade. In Dr. Bruhl's letter he openly states that one of the Sitka players was 14 years old. Our kids made a valiant effort but it was no contest with Sitka's older, oversized players.

The decision by Sitka to man a team with ineligible players put the JYFL players at risk. At no time did the officials or Sitka coaches involved respond to questions from the JYFL coaching staff or parents about the obvious inequity in size between the players, nor were they provided an official player roster for either team on the field. The fact is the Junior roster was provided after the game and as of this day we still have not received the Senior roster. The JYFL Board of Directors would like to commend our coaching staff for departing the field early in both games, as we believe that our players were in an unsafe circumstance. Our coaches used their best judgment and put the safety of our youth first.

It is unfortunate that Dr. Bruhl and some in the Sitka community have walked away with a feeling that our coaches and parents were unsportsmanlike. However, there were three referees officiating the games that would not put up with any misconduct from coaches, players or parents.

I would like to thank the Sitka team's head coach for his letter of apology and taking full responsibility for the violation of the rule. This letter can be found on our Web site at (www.juneaufootball.com. It is also unfortunate that the Juneau Youth Football League had to make the tough decision - after much public testimony and board deliberation - to discontinue our competition this season with the Sitka Youth Football League. We wish Sitka Youth Football the best and have hopes for improvement from both leagues so we can play football once again in the future.

• Marciano Duran is president of the Juneau Youth Football League.



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