Written by Phil Cerroni
By Alice Canham
It was standing-room-only in the Senter Park gym on Jan. 8. Parents, siblings and friends cheered, about three-dozen boys received their team jackets for participation in the Irving Boys Football Association (IBFA).
Eight-month-old Josiah Puente might have been the youngest fan on hand, as parents Jesse and Stephanie pointed out older brother Joseph who was there to be honored.
”Joseph is a student at Ladybird Johnson,” Jesse said. “It’s a great school. And he’s worked hard.”
He’s not the only one. Rose Stiggleman is the Treasurer for the IBFA. As she took a break from directing activities (and handing out cookies), she explained that the non-profit sports organization serves players as young as five years old in the Pee Wee division. At that age, it’s strictly flag football.
“These are our ‘major leagues’, though,” she said. “Our eleven and twelve year olds. If you played five years of contact football with IBFA, you’d get a five-year letter jacket.
“Some of these players are getting six and seven year jackets. And we have one who has been in our league for eight years.”
There are eight teams in the IBFA league, each with about 22 players. They begin working out by the end of July and games start in earnest from September through November. They conclude with a pro-bowl game in December.
This year’s City Championship trophy was awarded to the Redskins, under longtime Coach Reo Latin. They also received the Division Championship for finishing with the best record.
Riggleman said she never had a son playing in the league – she was a cheer coach and her daughters were part of the cheer squad. But she thinks parents are drawn to the IBFA because it offers a safe, affordable outlet for their sometimes-rambunctious sons.
“We try to keep the costs down,” she said. “And we don’t have restrictions, other than weight, age, and can they hold the ball.
“It’s not a Pop Warner league. It’s a competitive league. Parents will pay a registration fee, and that barely covers our costs of equipment, insurance and the referees we hire each year. The City sponsors us, so they provide the fields.
“The fee also covers the helmets we buy each year. A lot of leagues have moved away from this, but it’s our biggest thing – to keep up with the cost of the helmets. That cost has practically doubled, because the design has changed due to the dangers of head injuries. One helmet could cost $70 now, and they’re only good for a maximum of five years.
“So it’s a battle to keep costs down but still provide the safest helmets.”
To learn more about the Irving Boys Football Association, led by immediate past president Robert Webb and new president Marvin Clemons, log onto www.irvingboysfootball.org.