Football New Brunswick makes great strides

When officials from Football New Brunswick gather for their annual general meeting today (Saturday April 24) in Oromocto, they could easily slap each other on the back and congratulate each other for a job well done.

But they won’t.

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Instead, Football New Brunswick’s decision-makers will looking for new ways to help their sport grow. Approximately 3,300 New Brunswickers played competitive football in several age categories and formats last year and officials expect that number to increase. Out-going FNB president Larry Harlow said the association is expanding so quickly an executive-director may be hired in the near future.

This move would allow the group to move into parts of the province that currently don’t have organized programs.

Meanwhile, FNB will promote flag football for all ages, a female program for 14-to-17-year-olds, expand the province’s presence in the Atlantic Football League and attempt to launch associations in First Nations communities.

Harlow said more children are playing football at a younger age and coaches at all levels are constantly upgrading their skills so the game has never been in better shape.

Tackle and touch football programs for youths, adults, females and males are offered throughout the province.

“The success of football in New Brunswick comes from its volunteers who are dedicated and set up great programs for participation,” said Harlow, who has been president for two years and hopes to create a national women’s programs in the coming years.

Saint John, Harlow’s hometown, will host the final camp of Canadian women’s national tackle football team June 19-25. New Brunswick has 18 players on the national team and is regarded a leader in women’s football in the country.

Moncton Football Association has kept pace. Its programs are the envy of most minor football associations in Canada and their volunteers work year-round to raise funds, improve programs, educate coaches and provide development camps for players.

MFA president Dan Fougere and his team are constantly looking for ways to bring new brands of football to southeastern New Brunswick.

A five-on-five flag football league for adults is in the works and so is six-on-six tackle football for a number of age groups.

Fougere believes Moncton could field several six-on-six tackle teams, but the potential for growth lies in many of the outlying areas.

The six-on-six teams would require only 10 or 12 players so smaller communities could assemble squads quickly.

“We don’t care much about the format or where the teams are coming from,” Fougere said. “For us, the big thing is getting them to play football.

“Once they start playing football in these other areas, the leagues will grow and football at higher age levels will grow, too. I think you’re going to see football continue to grow in every part of the province and, especially, in this part of the province.”

A group of Amherst has received permission from Football Nova Scotia to join FNB so it can join the Moncton association. Amherst will probably have at least one peewee team in the Moncton league this fall and Fougere hopes bantam and football teams will not be far behind.

Another growth area in Moncton is the midget girls division. Fougere hopes two teams will be formed in Moncton this year and he’d like to see them join Saint John and Fredericton for form a provincial league.

“It’s growing and our biggest problem might be finding enough fields for all of the teams and leagues,” Fougere said. “That’s the only problem with growing so fast.”

* Dwayne Tingley is a sports reporter with the Times & Transcript. His column appears every Saturday.


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