By Annette Hinkle
Allison Scanlon, founder of Hampton Youth Sports (HYS).
Last year, HYS started offering flag football for boys and girls in grades 3 to 6 at the Ross School. Flag football begins again this weekend, but this time it will be at SYS in Southampton. Why the change in venue?
The Ross School was happy to have it there again, but I realized with the season we put on last year, there was one area where it was really difficult to pull it off every week and that was the referees.
Like any program with a board, whether it’s Youth Hoop or Little League, you have things you have to do. Insurance, gym space, uniforms, coaches, come up with schedules. But if it’s at a facility like SYS that hosts these sorts of things they have a paid staff, they have the referees or umps and are plugged into a system to provide them.
Because this was all new and we were doing it on our own, no dad wanted to be the ref and make the call because other parents would be mad. Sometimes we’d use coaches themselves, sometimes we’d use students getting community service hours — and those kids had taken heat for it.
Are parents that sensitive about refs?
Even though it’s a fun league, people take it seriously. I thought I’d grab a couple guys from the gym and was paying them out of my own pocket to ref, it was like herding cats.
I didn’t want to go through that again and knew I’d have that issue this year, since we’re expanding by adding a 7th and 8th grade division. At same time I was pulling my hair out figuring out how to do it, SYS was looking to duplicate the same league we were doing.
So it made sense to work together?
We said, ‘You’re doing what we’re doing, is there a way we can merge or compete against each other?’ This is what SYS does for a living. They have the staff and resources, can scholarship some families that don’t have the money.
The easiest thing was to move our program over there. I helped them get it set up a month before we started. We went over the rules and wanted to keep it the same.
What makes the HYS program unique?
It’s a big equalizer for the kids. They don’t have to be an athlete or even know football to play. Girls can participate, because flag is a different version of football. It’s safer and if you don’t have great skills or know the game it doesn’t matter.
I wanted to make sure it stayed that way. We helped them get it up and running, put the word out as much as we could. I got them the sponsors – 16 for all the teams. Pretty much all the dads want to coach again and we’ve added the 7th and 8th grade division which is new.
I hope it works out. Games start this Sunday. The last two weeks we’ve been scrimmaging and looking over the rosters.
Now you’ll have more time on your hands.
Last year I ran from game to game lining up refs and taking care of little details. This year, I’ll get to watch my kids play. I’ll have one in each age group, so that’ll be my Sunday afternoon. They love it and I’m happy to be there. I’ll enjoy it more. It’s freeing me up so I can do other things and pursue other goals.
The HYS basketball program isn’t going to SYS, is it?
We’ll run basketball the same way we did last year. We partnered with Bridgehampton and Ross, so we take kids from Bridgehampton, Ross and Sag Harbor. Because East Hampton and Southampton have their own Youth Hoop – and Bridgehampton and Ross don’t — we let them play with us. In exchange we get to use their gyms, that works out pretty good.
Sag Harbor has Youth Hoop already and they do a good job doing what they do. But we felt the focus became too much on the competitive not enough on the development aspect. We wanted to make sure girls got to play too. Fifth and sixth grade girls can try out but for third and fourth grades there aren’t any girls teams.
We really wanted to build that up.
It seems much of your effort is geared toward strengthening sports programs down the road.
This past year, I was on the athletic committee at Pierson and got to work with the AD and other administrators and board members and parents to look at issues facing the school in sports. One thing that stood out, in East Hampton, Southampton and Sag Harbor, none had enough girls to put together a JV softball team last year. There are many seasons where there are not enough middle school girls. That says we need to do more to build youth programs to field those teams so those programs can get off the ground.
I want to make sure whatever I do with this little non-profit I started can help the situation so its better when they’re older.
Now that flag football is off your plate, what would you like to do next with HYS?
One thing I’d love to do is start a running club. You have a lot of kids that aren’t going to play team sports – but you want them to be active. A youth running program could capture those kids who aren’t into the team sports but want to do something to keep active and fit. That’s the next thing I want to do with HYS.
In the future, I don’t want to do what everyone is doing. I want to fill a need where I can.
To sign up for flag football for boys and girls grades 3 to 8 at SYS on Major’s Path in Southampton, call (631) 287-1511. Games start this Sunday.