For more than five decades, Seaford residents have packed the bleachers at Seamans Neck Park on Sundays to watch Long Island Broncos football players and cheerleaders play and perform. Bill Kind, 39, said he’s always amazed that the stands are full of neighbors and friends — just as they were when he played defensive end and offensive tackle for the youth team when he was 11.
“It’s one of those things that doesn’t seem to change around here,” he said. “There is a tremendous sense of pride within the community and the organization.”
Kind, the social media manager and webmaster for the youth sports organization, said that the Broncos capped a milestone season in January when they celebrated their golden anniversary. And he noted that board members and players continue to look back fondly on the group’s history while preparing for 2017-18.
The Broncos football and cheerleading organization was established in 1966 to provide young people in Seaford, Wantagh and Bellmore with the opportunity to take part in football and cheerleading, Kind said. Only a few football-based organizations existed in southeast Nassau County at the time, but eventually Bellmore and Wantagh civic leaders founded their own teams, which developed relationships with football coaches at local middle and high schools.
Kind’s family moved to Seaford in 1989 and signed him up for the Broncos so he could meet neighborhood children. He played for the team for two years before joining the middle school squad.
“Not only did I make friends that I still have to this day, but I fell in love with the game,” he said. “The Broncos gave me a good foundation in terms of respecting the sport and learning about the dedication that goes along with playing the game.”
Kind, who coaches eighth-grade football at Salk Middle School in Levittown, said that the Broncos organization provides local children with high-quality coaching and training, ensuring that participants develop football and cheerleading fundamentals in a safe environment. All coaches have to undergo background checks and take training courses that include safety and concussion recognition. Equipment is also refurbished annually.
Children play eight to 10 games each season, including playoffs, in the Nassau County Youth Football League. Cheerleaders compete in contests in Nassau and Suffolk counties.
Justine Routledge, a former vice president of the cheer division, said that her daughters, Stephanie, 17, and Gaby, 12, enjoyed being a part of the organization so much that they still volunteer their time to help the younger cheerleaders. She noted that her family members have been involved with the group for eight years because they liked the fact that it brought students from both the elementary schools and St. William the Abbot together.
“Seaford is a small town, but the Broncos is a big organization,” she said. “Most people you meet have something to do with the Broncos.”
The program is steeped in tradition, Routledge said, with coaches passing on their knowledge and practices to new leaders year after year. Lisa Malek, a public relations officer for the Broncos, said that she enjoys other customs like the annual picnic and kick-off weekend, the end-of-season awards ceremony and the Broncos’ participation in Seaford High School Homecoming festivities.
The high school also hosts a Bronco/Viking appreciation night, Kind said. Children scrimmage during halftime of the high school game, while Broncos cheerleaders perform alongside the Lady Vikings.
The event not only raises community spirit, but also gives the cheerleaders and football players a glimpse of what’s to come in middle school, Malek said. “They’re not just being thrown onto the field — they have experience,” she said. “I see all of the kids learn a lot.”
The organization, which is a member of the USA Football Heads Up Program, also offers several free or discounted clinics so players can sharpen their skills over the summer. Registration for the 2017-18 football and cheer season opened on longislandbroncos.com last week.
Kind encouraged Seaford residents to learn more about the Broncos. After all, he said, Sundays at Seamans Neck Park are less about wins and losses and more about having breakfast and laughs with neighbors and their children.
“It’s quite impressive that a town as small as Seaford can sustain its own organization, but we do,” he said. “The Broncos have been a staple in the community for half of a century because we all want to see the program continue to flourish and make it a place where local children want to be.”