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Coaches teach life lessons through football

The coaches of the Rosedale Jets have aspirations for their young players that go much further than success on the football field.

Although football may be the main element of the team, the main goal of the coaches is to help more than 100 southeast Queens boys mature into young adults.

“Football is a part of it, but it wouldn’t be rewarding to just teach football,” said Jacques Leandre, president of the Rosedale Jets. “We teach them skills as adults so they can contribute to society.”

The team for 6- to 13-year-old boys was founded in the 1960s and plays other Queens and Brooklyn instructional football teams like the Bayside Raiders, Springfield Rifles and Brooklyn Skyhawks.

During a “skull session” examining football plays with Coach Gerald Karikari, kids on the Junior Pee-wee team, who are 9 and 10 years old, answer his questions with “yes, sir” and “no, sir.”

The Rosedale Jets coaches are hoping to show these boys the kind of discipline that they contend is lacking in school.

Leandre has been a coach for the team since 1994, but his ties to the Jets go back much further. He participated as a player from ‘78 to ‘84.

“It helped me in terms of discipline,” Leandre said of the football program, “and today I am a lawyer. I think a lot of it has something to do with being able to juggle a lot things at one time.”

With four football practices a week in addition to the games, the kids stay busy and out of trouble, Leandre said.

“It gives me something to do,” said Kenan Brogdon, 13, of Rosedale, who is a wide receiver and safety for the Jets.

Tyrell Coon, 13, of Rochdale Village has been throwing balls to Brogdon as quarterback for the Jets for three years. He plans to go to Holy Cross High School in two years and play on their football team.

“I can go a long way with this,” Tyrell said of the sport.

The program prepares elementary and junior high school students for high school football by giving them the opportunity to play full-contact football. In the city’s public schools, students are only play touch-football until high school.

“I like making contact with other players,” said Michael Salem, 10, of Jamaica. Michael said it is his dream to play in the National Football League.

Michael and Ryan Heron, 11, are both running backs, a position they enjoy because of its key function in the team’s offense, both moving the ball and blocking.

“You have to use your mind,” Heron said.

Terrence Coon, 10, of Rochdale Village, who is also a running back, said he likes the full contact of Jets football but also appreciates the friends he has made, many of whom go to different schools.

His buddy Emanuel Franklin, 11, who plays center, agreed with Terrence.

“I met some friends, like Terrence, my best friend, and Michael and even Ryan,” he joked.

In addition to a rigorous practice schedule, Emanuel has to make time to take care of his health because he suffers from cancer. He gets daily blood tests and monthly chemotherapy treatments, but still has the strength and perseverance to play football.

“I hope every other kid that has cancer or diabetes or whatever can get over it like me,” Emanuel said.

Leandre said Emanuel never missed a game last season, even as he was battling the cancer. He is supported and encouraged not only by Leandre, but by his dad, Tyrone Franklin, who is head coach of the junior pee-wee team.

“I do this to see the finished product,” Franklin said of the young players, many of whom have no previous football experience.

Some kids get started with football early, at age 6, in the Peanuts division, with the guidance of Coach Tracy Johnson.

Under the watchful eye of head coach Carl Meekins, Johnson helped 8-year-olds Dexter Williams and Taron Fason practice a snap.

The junior players appeared close to mastering the move, which is the quick passage of the football from the center lineman to the quarterback.

The fourth team, the 13-year-old Midgets, are coached by Alprentice Davis. The Rosedale coaches are all volunteers who do not make any money from the positions.

Leandre said the team runs on a shoestring budget and is supported by private contributions and city funds secured by Councilwoman Juanita Watkins (D-Laurelton).

For more information about the Rosedale Jets or to make a contribution to the team, call (718) 527-7620.

Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 138.

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