CINCINNATI — Cincinnati's increasing gun violence forced some youth teams to cancel their last games of the season, but local coaches pushed forward Saturday — doing what it took to get their players safely back on the field.
"It's just a lot of violence outside of football, but what happens is, it trickles down to these areas," said Milan Linear, president of Cincinnati United Youth Football. "We were happy to have Walnut Hills let us use the field today so we put the kids in a safe environment."
Elliot Horne, head coach of the 9- and 10-year-old College Hill Buccaneers, said he is proud of his Super Bowl champs for getting back on the field and playing as hard as they could.
"It feels great to see the kids running down the sidelines and scoring touchdowns," Horne said. "That's what it's all about…to get back…it feels good."
The Western Hills AA Mustangs also hit the field Saturday in their first playoff game, showing coach Andre Williams just how much the sport means to him and his team.
"Today after we lost, I had a kid on my team and he actually cried because he didn't want the season to be over with," Williams said. "You know that actually, I actually share the tear wiping because that just means a lot to these kids, that they get to play."
The West End Lil Senators have three more weeks of playoffs to prepare — and president Rob Harris said hosting a game now takes more than just throwing pads on his players. Harris has asked for police to be at all of their games.
"A police presence at South Avondale field, or any field we use, Withrow, Western Hills, Taft High School, there's a need," Harris said.
Harris said children should be a priority, but police have told him the shortage makes things hard.
"They told me, again, we have a police shortage," Harris said. "I said I understand that, however there is still a need, but that's not good enough for me to tell me we're short. If FC Cincinnati want to bring players in they have officers there or they shut down the street, if Bengals players want to come in, or their opponents...you understand the point I'm making. We make priorities where we want."
Williams agreed that youth games need more security to focus on the safety of each child.
"More police officers, patrolling, making sure these kids are safe, no getting in and out of wherever they are playing at and back to their cars, and make it back home to their families," Williams said.
Harris said knowing how the sport benefits each kid's overall development, he believes it is important to make the adjustments needed to keep their safety a top priority so they can continue doing what they love.