Huddling up in the ‘Burg

Bridesburg residents making moves to bring youth football to the neighborhood

Jim Law and his son Jimmy, 6, have a catch on the field at Bridesburg Recreation Center, one of the locations Law and other program organizers would consider for a possible location. MELISSA KOMAR / STAR PHOTO

By Melissa Komar

Get your popcorn ready, Bridesburg, and it’s not for the Eagles.

Jim Law is hopeful to kick off a full-contact football program for youth in the neighborhood starting next fall.

The 27-year-old Frankford native moved to Bridesburg in April, and after sometimes spending an hour driving his 6-year-old son, Jimmy, back and forth to football, Law thought, why go long when he could stay home?

“There’s no organized football other than the Leprechauns in Port Richmond and Oxford Circle and Frankford Chargers, but nothing in the neighborhood,” said Law, pointing out two young boys tossing a football on the outdoor basketball court at the Bridesburg Rec Center on a recent Sunday. “I said, why not just do it here? Each street has at least one Eagles flag, so it’s not like people don’t like it.”

Law grew up playing football for the Frankford Boys Club and Northeast Catholic High School and went on to coach football at Cherry Hill High School West in New Jersey when he was 21.

When his son turned 5, Law returned to Philadelphia at 26 to get involved with youth football and became a coach for the 5- and 6-year-old squad at Crispin Gardens Athletic Club, joining many of the coaches who had coached him at Frankford Boys Club.

“I want to teach the youth of today what I was taught,” he said. “Building character and responsibility and make good kids in the neighborhood.”

Although Bridesburg has a solid offering of youth sports between the Bridesburg Cougars and the Bridesburg Recreation Center, football is not on the list.

Backed by his biggest supporter, fiancé Kate Slavin, Law put out feelers on Bridesburg Facebook pages a few weeks ago and received a positive response.

Bridesburg residents Mark LaVelle and Larry Jordan jumped on board, and along with himself, Law considers them the “founding fathers” of the forthcoming program.

“It seems like people wanted this before, but just didn’t take the steps to get it done,” Law said. “People saw an invisible wall due to many things including insurance costs, and it is a costly sport, but we have plenty of people who are willing to donate.”

One of the individuals interested in making the football program become a reality is Jim McAteer.

A Bridesburg resident and local real estate agent for Keller Williams, McAteer grew up attending the summer day camp at Bridesburg Recreation Center.

“I played 16 years of football and would love to see this in the neighborhood,” said McAteer, who played football for Wissinoming, Father Judge High School and Widener University.

After seeing Law’s initial post on Facebook, McAteer reached out about making a donation and has pledged to give $2,000 to get the program up and running.

“Football kept me out of trouble growing up,” he said, “so, it means a lot to me that kids are involved in something.”

An organizational meeting will be held at The Post Office Cafe on Thursday, Nov. 30, at 7 p.m. “to really get the message out there.”

While the message is definite, preliminary was a term Law used frequently to describe the program, because there is still much to accomplish before the first snap can occur, including obtaining insurance and permits for a field.

But, Law plans to move full-speed ahead, with a flag football league for youth starting as soon as January.

“Our motto for the year is build a foundation,” he said. “We need at least 15 kids per team, and the likelihood of that happening for ages 5 to 15 in the first year is tough, but if we get that, we’re going to run with it.”

Aside from outside donations, Law intends to start a Mothers and Fathers Club to manage fundraising and get an outside perspective from people in the neighborhood.

“If you build a program with walls around it, things will only be accomplished by the people inside those walls, so we want everyone to have an opinion and do it in a correct way,” he said. “We want a strong program, run right, with open doors.”

Fundraising will primarily benefit the football program, but surplus funds will be donated to the other sports programs at the Cougars and the rec, according to Law.

And while the program doesn’t exist yet, names are being kicked around including the Bridesburg Yellow Jackets — a nod to the 1920s American football team Frankford Yellow Jackets — and Bridesburg Football Club.

Color scheme for the program will be black, Kelly green and white.

“It’s about keeping football in the neighborhood,” Law said. “Competition is a great thing no matter what you do. To have these kids push against each other and themselves to be better is what we’re looking to do.”

Kids are the bottom line of the potential program.

“This is for the kids, this isn’t for us,” Law said. “I was no giant football star, but I know football and a lot of people know football, and we’re going to come together and teach this so they know football and maybe one of these little guys in the neighborhood will go all the way.”

An organizational meeting about youth football in Bridesburg will be held on Thursday, Nov. 30, at 7 p.m. at The Post Office Cafe, 2696 Bridge St. Anyone interested in learning more about the program is welcome.