Home SPORTS To Many, Coach Jay Was a Warrior

To Many, Coach Jay Was a Warrior

by Ohio Digital News

I remember almost 30 years ago taking the late afternoon walk in September at nearby Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx. There were the beginnings of an autumn season of trees turning color and youngsters wearing red jerseys.

Except this was more than Autumn in the park and the usual walk. There he was, a coach with the whistle donned around his shirt and jacket. Youngsters with pads and helmets, which meant it was Warriors football season in the Bronx. And Warriors football for everyone who wanted to be a part of this historic and reputed youth league that has been a staple in the Bronx, four other boroughs, and suburbs of Westchester and Nassau Counties of Long Island.

But there he was, the coach known as “Jay” in the middle of a field that has since been refurbished in one of the largest parks situated around New York City. Whistle in and out of his mouth, a calm demeanor, and providing instruction of safety and plays that are the norm for a coach.

He was Jerome Demers, Coach “Jay” or Jerry to thousands of youngsters for over 63 years. This week thousands including yours truly mourned the passing of Demers, 85 years of age. In 2015, Demers stepped down as head coach and director of a program he established in 1952, where it all started in his native borough of Manhattan. He remained on board, advising a younger group of capable and authorized coaches from the Pelham Bay community because he was a Warrior.

But the past few years it was more at home. Coach Jay had some health setbacks. He stayed in contact with me and his second family of youth football players and volunteer coaches. He was always there for his Warriors. Until the end, they said, coach Jay was making sure a new season of registration for the upcoming late August kickoff was on target.

That was coach Jay. He assured every youngster an opportunity to play and put on the uniform with pride, also emphasizing that good grades in the classroom were a priority. He helped at-risk youth that needed a Warriors football program to help them succeed and achieve their goals, with many moving on to reputed colleges and universities. And quite a few achieved milestones with opportunities to shine in NFL training camps.

I know first hand how it was to be a Warrior. How it was to be around coach Jay.

We had our talks over the years at the local diner, in his spacious and simple home, and on the field. In his mind it was always about the youngsters and providing them opportunity. Also, he retired as a deputy Bronx Commissioner of the NYC Parks Department, so the knowledge of safe fields for kids was also a priority. He secured appropriate funding from local officials and merchants that distributed grant money to assist his Warriors.

It was all for his kids. He said more than one time, as I always reiterate, they are the future of tomorrow whether it be football or other competitive sports that will get them to their goals.

It brings me joy and a smile to see them succeed,” he said to me the last time we met. “I can’t begin to count the numbers of how many. I have been to their graduations, weddings, family events. They say coach ‘you have always been there for me.’ I lost count of how many,” he said with that soft spoken demeanor.

But there was that fighting back of tears. Then it was coming to an end of a long run that provided so many youngsters the ability to fulfill their goals of playing competitive and safe football. They were a part of the Warriors, one of the oldest and prestigious amateur football leagues in the country.

From August to early November, with teams in the Pee-Wee division to those entering their freshman year at high school, it has been Warriors Football. Four years ago, COVID shutdown all youth sports programs and disrupted scholastic sports. Then, coach Jay worried about his youngsters. He was concerned the Warriors would not survive and their illustrious history was coming to an end, but the Warrior in him said this had to continue. So, with safety protocols in place and authorization from the NYC Department of Health, coach Jay assured there would be another season, but it would be different.

No more safe tackling or body contact. No more soft clash of the helmets. The Warriors instituted safety protocols of flag football. It wasn’t in the plan but the youngsters continued to play and smiles returned to Pelham Bay Park.

Started in 1952 when I was 14.” Demers said when a revived plan came to fruition. “Just a block team in Manhattan and played pickup games. Then we took it to the Bronx.”

And four years later the Warriors are still strong. Except their leader has passed, though leaving a legacy that many will continue to honor. It was a commitment, caring for what he said were youngsters that had promise and an opportunity to succeed.

I, too, will miss our candid chats and the memories of seeing coach Jay on the field with a whistle ready to begin a drill or go over a play. Looking at that smile on his face, thousands of youngsters and their parents have that safe haven of youth sports as a backbone to their achievement.

It is all attributed to the Warrior Coach Jerry Demers. RIP my friend.

Rich Mancuso: X (Formerly Twitter) @ Ring 786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso

The post To Many, Coach Jay Was a Warrior appeared first on NY Sports Day.

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