Coaches, parents express frustration over changes to youth football championship games

RJ Hayes, Head Coach, MLK Broncos

“You want to know how to discourage the next generation? Take away something they have worked hard to accomplish.”

MLK Broncos Head Coach RJ Hayes didn’t hold back in a recent Facebook post criticizing last-minute changes that were made to Parks and Recreation’s annual youth football tournament. Hayes’ MLK Broncos will face Idle Hour in the 9U city championship game on Election Day at 6:30PM at Shillito Park. Lexington has three youth football leagues, 7U, 9U, and 11U. All three championship games were originally scheduled to take place Saturday, November 5 on the turf at Henry Clay High School.

Original schedule

“I’m frustrated, my team parents are frustrated, the kids are frustrated, they were all looking forward to playing on the HS field with the turf and there’s nothing anyone of us can do about it but vent on Facebook,” Hayes said in the post. He added that he and his fellow coaches work during the week as do most of the parents of the kids on his team, so the last-minute time and location change didn’t bode well. “To move a championship game from a Saturday to a day during the week is one thing but then to switch it to a park that is one of the hardest to travel to (Shillito) during the week is crazy to me.”

The issue is y’all want these kids to play a CHAMPIONSHIP game on a school night at a park. The fans and support is not gonna be the same as a weekend. Parents have to work and some don’t get off till 6. So you want us to fight traffic going that way. Knowing damn well clays mill has construction going on. Nicholasville rd is always a hot mess. It’s not making sense. And the lack of support for these kids when us parents change our whole life for them is sad. These are kids who have looked forward playing on a turf field all season long.

Facebook user, public comment regarding the schedule change

Hayes says the original tournament schedule was handed out to all coaches October 19, so all parents and coaches made plans and set their work schedules accordingly, under the assumption the championship games would be played on a Saturday at Henry Clay. However, after one team withdrew from the tournament, Parks & Rec officials completely reorganized the schedule, pushing out all championship games to separate weekdays, beginning on Monday, November 7.

Hayes says he expressed his concerns to officials and they initially agreed to move the championship games back to the original date, but that didn’t last long. Parks & Rec called him back and told him what is evidently the real reason the championship games were moved: “the Breeder’s Cup is Saturday and Lexington Police would not be able to supply the security Parks & Rec needs at the high school where they scheduled games.”

Hayes then tried to get the games moved to Sunday, at Douglass Park, reasoning that while it would not be on a high school turf field, at least more parents and family would be able to come out for the championship game. Parks & Rec said no to that plan, as well.

RJ Hayes partial interview w/ Lexington Times

Even ONE Lexington Director Devine Carama got involved. Hayes said he was working to have the game held at Tates Creek High School, with Fayette County Public Schools’ cops providing security. According to Hayes, “All this information was given to Michael Johnson at Parks & Rec on a group call with those men. Michael Johnson then said he would call back but as of 11:35 am on 11-05-2022. No one has received a call and he refused to answer any phone calls.”

Devine Carama did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Hayes says that he and two of his assistant coaches won’t be able to make it to a 6:30PM Tuesday championship game.

An additional concern Hayes brought up was that some of his players’ parents might have to choose between voting and watching their kid play in the championship, since their game is also scheduled for Election Day. “So people that work until 5 have to choose… go vote or get your child to the game.”

For visual representation, here is the trip from Winburn Middle School, a voting precinct near MLK Park, to Shillito Park. This drive would be made in weekday rush hour traffic. Should Parks & Rec be doing more to support youth football players, coaches, and parents? You decide.