Youth football gets safer helmets for new season

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WESTBROOK — A grant from a foundation run by New England Patriots superstar Rob Gronkowski will help make youth football in the city a little safer.

Westbrook Youth Football recently received a $10,000 grant from the Gronk Nation Youth Foundation to purchase Riddell Speed helmets for the youth tackle program.

Westbrook Youth Football President Amanda Mclaskey said the funding will allow the organization to purchase 75 new helmets.

“We are excited about receiving the grant because some of our helmets are  seven to 10 years old. The technology with helmets has changed a lot, especially with all the recent concussion research and testing,” she said.

“Our new Riddell Speed helmets are a big step up from our old helmets, mainly in safety and comfort,” said WYF board member Katy Rice. “With the Speed helmets we can provide a customized fit to each players head.  Once the helmet is properly fitted, air is added to the helmet to form the helmet padding to the child’s head.  The (helmets) also come equipped with a comfort liner to provide comfort and stability. Another big feature is the patented side impact protection.” 

Safety, Mclaskey said, is the program’s biggest focus. The program offers two different levels of football: flag football for K-3 athletes and tackle for grades 3-6, as well as a youth cheering program for second- through sixth-graders.

“We encourage safety, fun and then football. We want our players to be safe and have a good experience year after year and hopefully they pick up some good football skills along the way,” said Mclaskey, whose oldest son, a fifth-grader, is part of the tackle program. Her younger son, who is entering kindergarten in the fall will be taking part in the flag football program and her daughter, the cheering program.

Gronk Nation Youth Foundation provides grants to sports programs and in addition, the Gronkowski brothers provide appearances at events with selected nonprofit organizations that effectively serve and benefit children with an emphasis on health, education and fitness.”

Four of the five Gronkowski brothers have played in the NFL, including Rob, 29, a tight end with the New England Patriots since 2010. Glenn, 25,  a member of the Patriots practice squad in 2016 and 2017 played a game for the Buffalo Bills in 2016. Dan, 33, played 21 games as tight end in the NFL from 2009 to 2011 with the Detroit Lions, Denver Broncos, Patriots and Cleveland Browns. Chris, 31, appeared as fullback in 35 games with the Dallas Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts and Broncos from 2010 to 2012. Gordie Jr., 34, didn’t play professional football, but did play professional baseball for six years.

This is not the first time, Gronk Nation Youth Foundation has helped a local youth football program. In 2016, Rob Gronkowksi and Gordie Gronkowski made an appearance in Gorham, bringing with them $30,000 worth of equipment for the Gorham Youth Football program.

Aside from new helmets, Westbrook Youth Football is also purchasing new uniforms with a newly developed Westbrook JR Blazes logo.

“We were looking for a new look. We’ve had a bunch of different logos over the years and wanted something more united with a new logo with the Westbrook colors of blue and white. That will go across all three levels – flag, tackle and cheering,” Mclaskey said.

Registration for the new season is underway now at westbrookyouthfootball.com. The season begins in August, with games running September through October. Mclaskey said last year there were 125 kids in the program between flag football, tackle football and cheering.

Michael Kelley can be reached at 781-3661 x 125 or mkelley@keepmecurrent.com or on Twitter @mkelleynews

Along with new helmets, Westbrook Youth Football will also unveil a new logo this season. (Courtesy photo)

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