The newly-established New Hyde Park Football Gridiron Fund has made its first impact upon the New Hyde Park varsity football squad, donating a check to give the team a new tool: access to online film of both themselves an opponents.
“Because the kids are studying so hard, it’s hard for them to get away and do that during the day, so they can prepare as football players at home while they’re getting it done as students during the day,” head coach Kevin Dolan said during a pizza-party event held at Umberto’s in New Hyde Park on Monday afternoon.
The Hudl website allows athletes to watch all their game and practice film at home, but also allows them to share film with colleges for those going to play at the next level after graduation.
“They have a little bit of help, they can get into the school of their choice,” Dolan said. “Schools are so competitive now grade-wise and financially-wise that you have a kid that can help out their football team, find a little bit more money for them and, let’s face it, maybe get them in to that school and that’s all a direct reflection of this Gridiron fund.”
The site is widely used by many high schools and almost all colleges across the country and uploading film takes about 25 minutes which can be shared almost instantly as opposed to DVDs for every individual player each week.
“It allows them to study the opponent, but not only that, they watch their own games,” current assistant coach Frank Sonnenberg said. “And then, eventually for the future, some of these boys definitely want to go on to play college football. They make their own highlight films, we help them out with it and they send them out to any colleges they want through that website. It’s no longer a 10-hour process trying to make a DVD.”
“But your problem is, you want to do nice things like that it costs some money and the Gridiron fund has allowed us to make it possible for the kids,” Dolan said, noting the service costs about $800, of which $500 from the Gridiron fund was covered. “This is money we don’t have.”
The fund was started by several members of the 1983 New Hyde Park football team – the last one to go undefeated and win the Rutgers Cup in the process – including Richard “Big Daddy” Salgado and fellow Class of 1984 member Tom Dluginski as well as Class of 2003 member Sonnenberg, who had played football for coach Dolan before graduating NYIT where he had switched to baseball and came back “because he had such an influence on my life.”
It was Sonnenberg’s original idea to hold a golf outing to start the new fund.
“It was just to get some alumni back around because all these teams when we go play them somewhere we see all these alumni along the fence,” he said. “We came to New Hyde Park, you have alumni but we were missing that big-time showing, which we figured by getting our alumni involved, it would end up trying to get them coming around more, supporting the team.”
Originally when the fund started this past summer, the main thrust was to provide new equipment for the players, uniforms and an extensive rehabilitation of the football field. However, those items are the responsibility of the Sewanhaka High School District and the new fund has yet to actually purchase anything for the players yet.
“There’s a lot of talk out there, there’s a lot of plans out there. I’m just a football coach,” Dolan said. “As we get into the offseason and reevaluate some of the things that we need and what we have and what we have to replace through the Gridiron Fund and with the help and cooperation of the Sewanhaka District, we may be able to accept some assistance. They’re very concerned about that type of stuff. What the Gridiron fund is doing is just helping us supplement a lot of things for the kids, just to make sure the kids have what they need for this experience.”
Large contributions – such as capital purchases – and donations would need to be presented to the district board of education for acceptance.
When Dluginski and Salgado joined the cause, it provided a real boost both in terms of publicity and fundraising.
“My client, who’s the executive VP at Fox News Corp., he wrote a check for $500 and he don’t even have anything to do with this place. Not a bad deal, right?” Salgado said.
“It’s great. The boys are getting all this attention, a lot of them are loving it, they’re having a lot of fun and they’re meeting a lot of the alumni from the past,” Sonnenberg said.
“We had alumni come to the game, the Friday night game against Carey under the lights, huge turnout,” Dluginski said, noting about 50 people overall had donated through the fund’s Facebook page and Umberto’s, all of which was reflected in the $500 check.
“Back in our years when we played we were taken care of by a lot of the neighborhood people, Mr. Nuzzi was one of the people that really gave back to us and I never forgot that. He was very generous, came down to our practice. When we won the Rutgers Cup that year, he paid for jackets out of his own money for us to have for everybody on the team. We probably had close to 50 guys at least on the team. It was just something I wanted to do to give back. We’ve had people give donations to the fund from all over, from people who were alumni, they’re down in Texas, guys that we played with in Maryland, from all over, the word got out. The word of mouth just started spreading, people saw that everybody else was giving and they all, everybody bucked up. Whatever we can do for kids, it’s about the kids, it’s all about giving back.”