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Rosedale Jets gearing up for fall football season

Football lovers cannot wait until the dog days of summer finally end. Instead of sulking in the stands and watching the boys of summer have their time in the sun, local football players will strap on their pads and practice in the sweltering heat.

The Rosedale Jets have already registered around 80 boys for the fall season. But Rosedale Jets’ President Jacques Leandre expects much more once school lets out.

“Right now we have our diehards signed up,” Leandre said.

The Jets sport four teams, with players from ages 7 to 14. Practices start the first week of July at Brookville Park on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The season does not kick off until the second week of September.

The team serves as a farm system for players going on to high school teams.

“We have a great relationship with the local high school coaches,” Leandre said. “Our program is key to their programs. Right now we have nine former players on the Holy Cross team alone.”

Leandre worked to restore the organization to respectable status. The team, which was started in 1961, dwindled down to 30 players in 1998. Leandre first joined the organization in 1979 as a wide receiver for the Peanut Division team. Leandre moved on to play for Springfield Gardens High School and Monroe College. He returned to the Jets as a coach and recently was named president.

“My main goal is to ensure the organization is administratively up to par,” Leandre said. “We have planned properly and worked together with the community.”

Jets coaches have spoken at career days in District 29 public schools and Leandre has also imposed a dress code for the coaches to set a proper example for the children.

“We want the children to understand we are teaching them more than football, we are teaching them the game of life.”

The Jets encourage boys as well as girls to participate. Last season the Jets carried a squad of 43 cheerleaders, 28 more than the year before. The Jets hosted a cheerleading camp run by the National Cheerleading Association at Brookville Park. Professional cheerleaders trained the girls for eight hours a day for three days.

“Our cheerleaders did some spectacular stuff last year,” Leandre said. “They outshined their competition.”

Leandre plans for rapid expansion for the entire organization. Leandre created a Web site, hands out flyers and utilizes the media.

“We created a coalition with the local media,” Leandre said.

Recently, Leandre took around 90 boys to a football camp in the Poconos for four days.

“I have always been a hands-on guy,” Leandre said. “It was hard for me to hang up my cleats, but I now do what I can off the field.”

Despite recruiting success, the Jets face plenty of financial problems. The price for equipment and the conditions of the field trigger complaints from the organization.

“The price for our equipment is outrageous,” Leandre said. “The maintenance of the bleachers and field is difficult.”

The fields lack lighting, forcing the Jets to practice under street lamps. Once the lights go out at around 6 p.m. during the winter, practice is cut short. The Jets tried generators for lighting, but the lights become extremely dangerous if there is rain.

“We’re banging at the door of our elected officials,” Leandre said. “We were wondering why we don’t have what other communities do?”

The Jets have received pledges from parents of players and many in the community. Councilman James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton) gave the Jets $5,000; however, Leandre feels a lot more has to be done.

“I’m going to continue to stride for more funding,” Leandre said.

The Jets cannot allow short funds to prevent a prosperous season. The Jets’ summer sessions enable them to compete against other youth football teams from around the city such as the Bayside Raiders, Springfield Rifles, Brooklyn Skyhawks and Staten Island Warriors — all waiting for the first signs of fall.

Reach reporter Everett Fell by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.

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