Making a Difference: Flag football program curbing violence in Johnstown

A coach in Johnstown is running a flag football program for kids to try to curb violence in the city. (WJAC)

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. (WJAC) - The conversation about violence in Johnstown is often being discussed and many people are working to try to find a solution.

In this week's making a difference, one man is using his love for football to try to keep kids out of trouble and on the field. He runs a flag football program that teaches kids about the game and how to succeed in life.

These kids are hitting the gridiron, all thanks to Coach Eddie Taylor who started T&N Youth Sports that allows children in Johnstown to play all kinds of sports.

“They need love, they need someone to show them we're here for you. That’s what T&N Youth Sports is all about. We're about low income people that can't afford it,” Coach Taylor said. "We make sure these kids who don't have, get."

Coach Taylor says too often kids are becoming involved with gun violence in Johnstown.

So he's using his love for football to help them make the right play in life.

He's teaching flag football through the NFL Play 60 Flag Football League program, which is free because of community sponsors.

“The things I wanted to do was to make sure no other child dies here in the city of Johnstown and we did just that, we accomplished that this summer,” Coach Taylor said.

Playing in this program gets kids ages 5 to 8 ready for tackle football.

“I like to block people and hike the ball to the quarter back,” said 9-year-old James Audi.

“I learned way more how to play and it’s fun playing out with my friends,” said 8-year-old Xzavior Tatum.

They're learning the game and becoming more disciplined on the field at Roxbury Park. They practice three times a week and have games every Saturday.

Coach Taylor's son, Tyrike Taylor, sees the sport making positive changes.

“It will always keep them out of trouble because they'll always have something to do, they'll always have something to look forward to doing,” Tyrike Taylor said.

In recent years, young lives have been taken too soon in the city, like Marquise Martin, known as “Bam”, who was just 13 when he was shot and killed in December of last year.

“I had him since he was in the 3rd grade, good kid, God bless him. It still hurts me by talking about him. I wanted to save these kids here in Johnstown from the gun violence and hopefully I’m on the road to doing that through T&N Youth Sports,” Coach Taylor said.

They believe this program along with others they offer like basketball, softball, and volleyball can reduce the chances that children will end up victims of violence.

“Sports is what bring everybody together, shuts down all the violence, all the nonsense makes everyone a teammate again, spreads joy, love, friendship,” said Tyrike Taylor.

Coach Taylor is helping them tackle their fears and catch their dreams, no matter how big they may be.

“I want to be in the NFL,” said Tatum.

He just hopes they make a touchdown in life.

“I hope some of these guys will make it to the NFL, be good in school, obey their parents but definitely look to do something positive, hopefully football will set these kids on a positive road. We can't save them all but we can but we can save as many as we can that comes through here,” Coach Taylor said.

The first games are this Saturday, September 22nd, at 2:00 and 3:30 p.m. and then every Saturday until November 4th when they have a super bowl game. Anyone is welcome to go watch the games.

It’s not too late to join the program, kids can still register.

You can make a donation or even sponsor a team. It costs $250 per team or $25 per child.

If you want to learn more about the flag football program or the other sports activates T&N Youth Sports offers, they have a Facebook page.

You can also share any ideas with Coach Taylor. He has plans to start a flag football team for 5th and 7th graders next year and they will play in Latrobe.

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