Big things are happening on the football fields of Bergenfield, NJ. The town’s recreational football league, an organization founded in 1957 as a public town program, has brought both its junior and senior teams into championship games. At this writing, the Bergenfield Bears were prepared to face off against Dumont in the senior division and Lodi in the junior division. The games would be played on Sunday, November 16, with follow-up stories to come. The Bergenfield program, which has about 100 players and 125 cheerleaders, is constantly looking for motivated players and coaches to support the local and competitive sport.
“If we can win the championship game it will help immensely, it will draw people to our program. The kids are already excited,” said Jim Lodato, the director of the football program who has spent five years as a coach and, in younger days, six as a player. “As our town has evolved we have worked with local schools to increase interest and draw more kids into our programs.”
Recreational football, which is seen as a traditional sport in Bergenfield, is organized into four divisions. Mighty Mites is for kids grades one and two, Pee Wee for grades three and four, Junior for grades five and six, and finally the Senior division for grades seven and eight. The program is open to the public and accepts both boys and girls. Practice begins each season on August 1st and practices take place four nights a week. When not on the field, members of the program commonly participate in town events and hold fundraisers.
“Our recreation community is very supportive, Bergenfield has a tradition of football games,” said Lodato. “We want to promote our achievements and help kids build character and a strong work ethic.”
This is also the first year that the football league has organized into an executive board with a president, vice president, secretary and treasurer. The league has also looked for ways to improve communication among all who are involved and have set up both a Facebook page and website to post information and get more people involved.
“Communication within our league has improved greatly, the board allows us to work together more efficiently,” said Lodato. “I want to be in touch with everyone, we held our very first parents’ meeting recently. Everybody is a part of the league.”
The football program has acted as a platform to teach kids valuable skills and provides a foundation for other sports activities. One example of the recreation program’s success is Ron Villone, a major league baseball player, who played football in Bergenfield in his youth.
“We teach all skill levels, we teach all players and encourage kids to give 100 percent,” said Lodato. “Football teaches hard work and discipline, kids can learn to apply that attitude to their futures.”
Author’s Note: The Bergenfield junior and senior teams went on to victory in both of their championship games, since this interview was conducted with Mr. Lodato.