By CLINT FOSTER
Youth football enthusiasts will have to look south for this year’s local NFL Punt, Pass and Kick competition. After three years of hosting the free event in Mineral Wells, AmVets Post 133 could not put on the competition because the NFL now requires hosts to provide liability insurance coverage for all children who participate.
AmVets Post 133 Commander Jim Vines said he was “caught off-guard” when he went online to register at the beginning of September for a fourth year of the popular football skills competition, only to find out his group lacked the necessary insurance. As a non-profit, AmVets cannot afford such insurance coverage and certainly not on such short notice. Vines added the City of Mineral Wells Parks and Recreation Department – which held the Punt, Pass and Kick competition before AmVets took the reins four years ago – would not pick up the ball this year either.
With no local options, Vines said the closest Punt, Pass and Kick contest for families wanting to participate will be held by the Optimist Club in Glen Rose, this Saturday, at Tigers’ Stadium, located at 1102 Stadium Dr.
“We just want to make sure the public is aware,” Vines said. “We’ve been very excited for three years now, bringing that freely to the children. We want to make sure the kids and their families know there’s still a place to go. It’s affected quite a few areas; Weatherford isn’t having theirs this year.”
Being that punt, pass and kick competitions don’t involve contact and there is little likelihood that a child might get seriously injured throwing or kicking a football, it is hard to know exactly why the NFL is now enforcing such insurance requirements.
Vines speculated a child somewhere might have slipped while kicking the ball and broken his or her ankle or leg. This might lead certain parents to get “belligerent,” as Vines put it, and “demand hospitalization costs” from the NFL.
Regardless, Vines said his chief concern, when he heard the news, was that he would be letting local kids down. He said not only are punt, pass and kick competitions a great way that young kids can discover and develop a love for football, but AmVets’ free program included kids in the community from all different backgrounds and allowed them to get involved in a wholesome activity.
“One thing we do in the community is make sure we have as many youth programs available because we have such a large population of under-priviledged kids,” he said. “Not everyone can afford to go buy football gear and join an Optimist [Club] team. It excludes a lot of kids. So we try to bring in as many free programs as we can. The important thing is to do something to get them off the darn street. That’s all we’ve ever been concerned about.”
As for next year, Vines said he has not formulated a concrete plan. He said he would probably determine what the exact cost of the proper insurance coverage would be ahead of time and then begin a fundraising and donations campaign.
Vines said he will do what he can to ensure Mineral Wells does not go another year without its own punt, pass and kick contest for local youth.
To register for this year’s NFL Punt, Pass and Kick competition in Glen Rose, visit nflppk.com and sign up under the Glen Rose, Texas, site. Families can register online, download the registration form and mail it in or register on site this Saturday, no later than 5:30 p.m. The competition begins at 6 p.m. For more information, call 254-396-9187.