New Paltz youth team to play at MetLife Stadium
The New Paltz Hurricanes youth football program will take the field at MetLife Stadium after Sunday’s Jets-Rams contest.
The New Paltz Hurricanes youth football program will take the field at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on Sunday for a special game after the Jets-Los Angeles Rams contest even as the team faces an uncertain future.
Edward Shuman, a board member of the non-profit youth football squad, said they entered a lottery pool sponsored by the NFL, and they found out in August they were going to get to play on the field.
“Originally, it was going to be a half-time thing, but they were doing a Veterans Day ceremony, so they moved us until after the game,” he said.
Shuman added that he doesn’t mind because now they get more time out there.
“It would’ve been 10 or 15 minutes, and they would’ve rushed us right out on the field,” he said.
The youngsters are excited and ecstatic to play at MetLife Stadium, which holds upwards of 82,566, he said. Some of the players may have never been to an NFL game or had the opportunity to go to one, according to Shuman.
While the parents had to buy tickets for the game, the youngsters get in free, he said.
Shuman, who is actually a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan, said they also got Jets-Giants preseason tickets, and several of the players went to that game.
“They gave us MVP experiences. They were and able to go on the field prior to the game and watch the guys warm up,” he said. “All six kids got out on the field.”
All of their teams, including a D1, a D2 and a cheerleading squad, will attend Sunday’s game.
Fifteen to 16 fifth- and sixth-graders, ranging from ages 8 to 11, will take the field, while the DI kids and the cheerleading squad provide support, he added. But even as the Hurricanes feel like they’ve won the lottery, they face being evicted from their longtime home at New Paltz Middle School. The school district is contemplating tearing up the field as part of a renovation project at the school, and they may not allow the youngsters to play there, Shuman said.
“We’re out there searching for a location,” he said. “If for some reason the school district doesn’t allow us to play at the high school, we’ll have to start from scratch.
“It’s going to be a kind of a tough transition.”
There’s a chance the kids won’t have a place to play, he added.
“If we indeed lose this middle school spot, we’d have to start from ground zero, level ourselves, mow ourselves, line ourselves,” he said. “We’d have to recreate the wheel.”
He also said the Hurricanes have also faced declining participation in recent years as parents have reacted to research connecting concussions sustained playing football to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which was cited in the deaths of several former NFL stars, including Junior Seau’s 2012 suicide.
Player safety was one the reasons the Hurricanes left Pop Warner a few years ago in favor of the Orange County Youth Football League, which has a direct path with USA Football and its Heads Up Football program, he said.
“We teach the kids proper techniques in tackling,” Shuman said. “We have a player safety coach with us wherever we go.
“If we think a kid might of got hurt, he has ability, as do the refs and coaches, to take kids out the game.”
This goes hand in hand with the changes the NFL has made in recent years to make the game safer, Shuman added. And he hopes these changes lead to increased participation.
Right now, the Hurricanes are working on strengthening their connection with New Paltz High’s football team, which won this year’s Section 9, Class B crown.
“We’ve tried to get some organization with the high school coaches, teaching along the same lines making it easier to transition,” Shuman said. “We want to make sure we’re all on the
“We see some of the high school kids watch our games.”
Two large groups moved up to the Huguenot’s modified program, he added.
The Hurricanes play approximately 10 games during a season, which begins at the end of August, playing mostly teams like Highland and Wallkill.
“The farthest we travel is an hour,” he said.
The Hurricanes also play teams from larger communities, like Newburgh, which handily defeated them in their last contest two weeks ago.
“They have such a big program they have two full teams,” Shuman said. “It makes it a little harder.”
Shuman, who has three boys — including two twins — who played on the team, decided to get involved. He’s volunteered as a coach along with serving on the board.
During his tenure on the board, he said he’s learned just how many overhead expenses the team has, including maintenance fees for the field, paying referees and ensuring they have the newest equipment.
While some help trickles down from the NFL, the Hurricanes still receive the vast majority of their support from community-based sponsors.
“We go out in the middle of summer and hit some of the local businesses trying to get them to donate to us,” he said.
And, he added, he also counts on the support of the parents.
“This organization is put together by 100 percent volunteers for the kids,” Shuman said.
A New Paltz Hurricane runs with the ball in a game against visiting Highland.