New Paltz youth team to play at MetLife Sta­dium

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Brian Hu­bert bhu­bert@free­manon­line.com @bri­anat­free­man on Twit­ter

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

same page.

“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.

PHOTO PRO­VIDED

A New Paltz Hur­ri­cane runs with the ball in a game against vis­it­ing Highland.

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