BCAC Tackle Football Seeks Recruits

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 Who rocks? Shamrocks! The Broad Channel Athletic Club (BCAC) Shamrocks Tackle Football Season will soon get into full swing. After last year was missed, it’s shaping up to be a promising season, and there’s still time for kids to be a part of this organization that not only teaches skills on the field, but lessons to carry for a lifetime.

Coming fresh off their 2021 Flag Football season, which resulted in two championship wins for the fourth and seventh grade St. Camillus/Virgilius CYO teams, BCAC football is getting ready to kick it up a notch with its tackle football season. With more than 125 kids between the ages of five and 14 already registered, practices are set to begin in August to get ready for the season kickoff in September. And there is still time to join.

As he speaks of the BCAC’s football program, passion radiates through Brad Palisi, a head coach, who along with Commissioner Mike Malsy, and several volunteers, helps make the program possible. Palisi describes football as a sport where kids can “find a home.” He says, “Football is just different. It’s such a team sport and you can take a kid who might be heavier or not so fast, who doesn’t do well in soccer or basketball, and there’s a home for him or her here. We need that kind of kid. For kids who can’t find their niche in other sports, they can find it in football.”

Unlike the flag football program, the tackle football program is not run under CYO. Rather, this team is the only one in the five boroughs to fall under the Nassau Suffolk Football League (NSFL). Due to this, the program is one that brings kids from all neighboring communities and local schools together, rather than kids playing for one school CYO program. “It really unifies the Rockaway community, with Broad Channel and Howard Beach,” Palisi said. And it gives kids the ability to spread their wings. The team plays everyone from Valley Stream to North Babylon to Wantagh, Freeport and beyond. They typically hold practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with games on Saturday nights and Sundays.

Traveling out to Long Island for away games can be a commitment, so this year, the team is trying something a little different to ease that burden for its youngest players who are likely just starting out with the sport. As they have more players to work with this year to form small teams, their Peanuts (ages 5-6) and Pee Wees (ages 7-8) will have the opportunity to play in-house with all games at the BCAC (125 Cross Bay Blvd.) this year. “This means no traveling. Traveling can be a big commitment, so we want to let these young kids decide if they love the sport first. If they’re committed, the parents are more likely to be committed, so we want to give these kids a venue to play in and work their way up to traveling in the older age groups,” Palisi said. The Midgets (ages 9-10), Ponies (ages 11-12) and Seniors (ages 13-14) will play in the small tier division with the Long Island-based teams.

BCAC Shamrocks football is all about teaching kids the skills and experience needed to decide if the game is for them. Due to this, they keep registration fees low at $275 per player. With this, each player is given a jersey with their name and lent a helmet and shoulder pads for the season—equipment which can come at a high costs and kids often outgrow. “We want kids to come with zero knowledge of football and it costs big money to buy a helmet and shoulder pads, and he or she may wind up not liking the sport at all. That’s a big expense for families, so we fundraise all year and we get great support from the BCAC so we’re able to keep costs down,” Palisi said.

Tackle football is different from the flag football season as the game gets more physical, but the organizers do all that they can to quell fears and make the game as safe as possible. “There were fears over the game but we’re doing everything to teach this game the right way and the best way to protect the kids,” Palisi said. One of those ways is by doing quality control on the helmets. While not required, the BCAC sends the helmets back to the manufacturer each year to be reinspected and recertified for the following season. They also use two brands of helmets and have fittings before the season to make sure each player has a properly fitting helmet that won’t move when used. Additionally, they are the first area organization to use Shadowman during practices. “It’s this big inflatable, weighted tackling dummy which you can put different vests on and hook up to a sled to run with it. It’s this moving target the kids use instead, in order to limit contact during our practices,” Palisi explained.

While learning to play the game safely, kids take away more than a lesson in defense and offensive plays. “Besides the X’s and O’s about the football field, the first thing we teach kids is that there’s something greater than yourself. Some may have dreams of the NFL but some may not run as fast as others. You can’t always do what someone else can do. I’m taking a bunch of kids and making 85% realize that you’re probably never going to touch the football in this game today. You may not be scoring the touchdowns, but if you didn’t do your job, we wouldn’t be scoring touchdowns. It’s something more important than your personal goals. It’s about confidence, a commitment to an overall goal, selflessness, discipline. There’s no bullying, no hazing. When you’re a Shamrock, we’re all the same and we want to make it a welcoming environment and make each kid feel like they’re a part of something.”

At the end of the season, no matter the outcome, the team celebrates their accomplishments. “We have a rewards brunch at Russo’s on the Bay and it’s a great day. Everyone gets dressed up and it’s a great cap to put on the end of the season. Russo’s has been awesome. We’ve been able to keep it free for the players every year,” Palisi said.

Registration is still open. For more information, reach out to Brad Palisi at 646-773-6169. To register, head to: www.BCACNY.com/football

 By Katie McFadden

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