Since 1957, the Falcons have remained dedicated to serving the underserved youth of the five boroughs, by not only providing an opportunity to remain active, but also focusing on education and pursuing a college career.
According to coach Neil O’Donnell, athletes in the program have gotten attending elite private schools like Pomfret School in Connecticut, Choate Rosemary Hall in Connecticut, Hebron Academy in Maine, and Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts among others.
“We can take these inner-city kids that would never have had an opportunity to have access to these schools through football and education,” O’Donnell said. “If you’re a good student and a good football player, we can help you get into these schools.”
They also provide tutors to struggling students, SSAT prep classes for private schools and preparatory classes for Catholic schools as well.
“You have to be a good student for us to recommend you, and you have to be a good person,” he said. “We always preach to our kids to do the right thing in life, and if you do the right thing in life you’re going to be rewarded.”
O’Donnell is a retired NYPD detective and has been involved in youth sports for roughly 30 years. He said aside from the fun and education, athletes in his program also carry themselves with dignity and a positive attitude.
Today, he is the head coach of the club, which serves approximately 200 children on nine teams throughout the city from ages five to 16 years old. There are six teams in the NYC Youth Football League and three teams in the Gotham Football League.
“My thing is, since I took over the program, not only teaching the kids how to win but how to do it the right way,” O’Donnell said.
Funding for the buses and clubhouse, located at 57-10 Mazeau St. in Maspeth, comes in part from funding raised through an annual golf tournament and from discretionary funding from Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley’s office.
“It teaches them togetherness and sportsmanship and that’s valuable,” Crowley said. “Each year, when I get council dollars, I spend a majority on senior and youth programs.”
Last year, Crowley said she gave roughly $15,000 to the Falcons.
“At the end of the day, this league does more than other leagues because the Falcons really get involved in the kid’s lives,” she said. “Over the years it has helped young boys become better men.”
Former NFL tight end Marco Battaglia is a native of Howard Beach and currently a Middle Village resident. He said he wouldn’t want his kids to play for any other team.
“I really appreciate Neil and the whole organization,” he said.
Battaglia, drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1996, said he is confident the coaches know how to teach the game of football, but also weigh the importance of education as well.
“Kids and parents should feel very secure about putting their kids in the Queens Falcons program,” Battaglia said. “Nobody is getting paid over there, they’re just trying to pass the football on to the youth and make sure their scholastic and athletic futures are bright.”