Chris Foley admits he could have his head in the clouds thinking there will be full contact tackle football on the west coast before too long, but he’s willing to roll up his sleeves to help bring it to fruition.
Foley is working closely with Football Newfoundland and Labrador to have youth on the west coast hitting the gridiron as early as the spring of 2017.
In the three years since its inception, Football NL has grown from 56 players to 175. That’s not bad numbers for a province where you couldn’t buy a football helmet four years ago.
What started as a small group of die-hards playing football on a converted soccer pitch in Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s under the leadership of Adam LeDrew, has grown into an organization with a foothold in three communities across Newfoundland and Labrador.
LeDrew had to move away to chase his dream of becoming a pilot so he handed the league over to Brian Hughes and Football NL. Hughes is a retired school principal with a football background from his days in Ontario and Quebec. His involvement has helped its grow it by leaps and bounds.
Foley became aware of the league on Facebook earlier this year. It peaked the curiosity of the avid Green Bay Packers fan so he approached Hughes and even went down to watch a few practices.
Seeing youth throwing the football around on the west coast is what the goal is now.
Foley plans on meeting with interested groups of students in the elementary and junior high schools over the next month or so to gauge interest.
He has received a lot of positive feedback from his friends who are among the growing numbers who have become fans of the NFL and CFL.
Newfoundland and Labrador is the only province in Canada that doesn’t boast an organized provincial tackle football league and he would like to see that change.
“It’s worth a shot to see at least see if there is an interest from parents and kids,” he said. “A lot of people want to get involved. They want to see the sport of full contact tackle football brought to the west coast of the island.”
Being a relatively new sport, no doubt there will be challenges such as facilities, availability of coaches and qualified officials, but those are things Foley says will work itself out over time. And in addition, with the help of Hughes and others fully engaged in promoting the game in this province.
Like all contact sport, parents will have concerns about safety and Foley doesn’t expect it to be any different when it comes to football since there is so much information available now on concussions in sport.
“Safety is the number one key. We don’t want to put anyone in danger,” he said.
“There’s always a risk of injury with any sport and we’re going to do our best to reduce the risk by as much as we can.”