When College Point resident Mariella Toufos was searching for a youth football league for her son, she held the same concerns most parents do.
Will the contact be too rough? How about the coaching?
Then she heard about the Whitepoint Wolverines. Online reviews were positive and the team’s website looked attractive with its pictures and videos. So she decided to give the team a try. And after taking her son to his first practice with the Wolverines’ travel team at Memorial Field in Flushing, her worries were gone.
“I’m very excited and my son is very excited,” Toufos said. “Based on what I’ve seen today, it seems like they’re very organized, very structured, so I’m looking forward to the season.”
Over the past two years, the Wolverines have reintroduced themselves to the Whitestone, College Point and Flushing neighborhoods with a new system and fresh coaching.
The league currently has about 300 players spread out in various age divisions, with the oldest players age 13.
Decades ago, it was a flourishing program with thousands of children, but gradually diminished after developing a bad reputation from coaches that treated young players too harshly, according to parents and league administrators.
Then Mike McCutchen stepped in as president and about two years ago began to reform the league. He focused the program more on teaching the young players the fundamentals of the game from every aspect rather than focusing on winning.
He also got former standout college players, semi-pros and high school coaches to pitch in. Now even a player with NFL experience has signed on to coach the children.
Native Brooklynite Jeremiah Brown, who played for Wagner College in Staten Island and was signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars, started to help coach the league this year.
“New York City is rough for football players to reach their dreams or come close to getting a scholarship sometimes,” Brown said. “I just have that passion to give back to the youth, period.”
There are flag football and tackle football divisions along with the travel team, which is for older players looking for more competition.
Many of the athletes go on to local high school teams such as Cardozo, Bayside and Flushing high schools, McCutchen said.
Games do not begin until September, but every Saturday morning until the season starts the league is holding free clinics about fundamentals at Memorial Field.
“Our main goal here really is to teach the game and keep children out of trouble,” McCutchen said.