FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – It’s been a decade since former NFL punter Jason Baker hung up his cleats for good. Years after wrapping up his NFL career, the Wayne High School grad is determined to provide opportunities for the next wave of football players.
Last year, Baker helped establish the Northeast Indiana Football Association (NIFA), an organization dedicated to developing children through youth football. As part of NIFA’s “Root System,” the organization partners with area school districts – Fort Wayne Community, Southwest Allen County and East Allen County – along with PAL Fort Wayne to create playing opportunities for kids in first through sixth grade.
That root system includes offering flag football for kids in grades 1-2, prep for tackle in grades 3-4 and tackle football for kids starting in middle school.
“They’re going to learn things playing that sport that they’re not going to learn anywhere else, that are going to serve them when they’re a 44-year-old father of two and a business owner.” Baker said.
Baker adds the level of contact by grade levels adds a layer of safety when it comes to keeping kids engaged in the long term.
“Our goal is that parents are fully empowered to make the best decisions for their kids in an effort that a great amount of them choose to play the game,” Baker said.
As NIFA enters year two, Baker hopes the association’s continued growth creates an environment for kids where they can learn important life lessons from playing football.
“There’s an age that we get these kids and it’s maybe the most formative years of their lives,” Baker said. “They’re choosing to come to us to play this game that they’re hugely passionate about, and we’re the adults that have a chance to encounter them in that time and space. We can’t miss it.”
Click here to register for upcoming youth football leagues through NIFA.