Football, news commentator George Will once superciliously noted, incorporates the two worst elements of American society: “Violence punctuated by committee meetings.”
In this new league, the huddles may stay but the hard-hitting is out for good.
A group of Sequim parents have formed Sequim NFL Flag Football League, an NFL-backed non-contact form of football for boys and girls up to age 12, starting this fall.
The goal of Sequim NFL Flag Football, president Rebecca Stevenson says, is to provide an entry to the sport without the physical contact that may detract those youths who haven’t developed physically quite yet.
“We wanted a league that would be a fun, positive experience for kids,” Stevenson says. “NFL Flag seemed like a great fit.
“We wanted a football experience where kids would have a lot of play time. The game is designed so five kids play per team at a time. Each child gets equal playing time and (has) a great chance to experience many aspects of the game.”
Since the teams are smaller (30 feet by 70 feet), the fields in NFL Flag are smaller as well. The league has a set of rules that stray from high school, college and pro games. In NFL Flag, the offensive team plays for a first down at midfield and a touchdown in the end zone. Running and passing plays are allowed, although there are “no-running zones” at midfield and near each goal line. The defensive team covers receivers, rushes the passer and grabs flags to make “tackles.” Extra points come from regular plays from the five-yard-line (one point) or the 12-yard-line (two points).
Developed in 1996, NFL Flag has rules and registration information at: flag.nflyouthfootball.com.
Stevenson said the league was particularly attractive in that players get to learn offensive and defensive plays, get lots of playing time and, since the league is backed by the NFL, players get to wear jerseys with NFL team logos and designs.
Flag football starts as a coed league, then divides at age 11 and up into a boys league and a girls league.
“If we have enough interest,” Stevenson says, “we will love to have the league extend to the 11-14 age groups. I am excited to provide another sport option for both boys and girls in our area.”
Stevenson studied youth sports and youth psychology as an undergraduate student at the University of Washington, delving into research about youths’ physical, psychological and social development and the impact from involvement in sports and competition.
“The developmental model of sport focuses on developing an individual’s knowledge of the sport, their fitness and psychological well-being,” she says. “The NFL Flag league has all the elements we were looking for.”
Other than weeklong flag football camps hosted by Sequim High School football coach Erik Wiker, Sequim doesn’t have a permanent flag football league.
The community does have the Wolfpups organization, a contact football league. Stevenson says the leagues can co-exist.
“Wolfpups seems to be a successful program for those who want that type of sport experience,” Stevenson says. “NFL Flag will be another option for kids in Sequim who either haven’t been ready for contact sports yet, or who want to experience the fast action of flag football.”
Sequim NFL Flag Football is teaming up with the Boys & Girls Club of the Olympic Peninsula, which helps with liability insurance. The league is actually run as a Boys & Girls Club program, says Sequim club director Mary Budke, through the club’s “Character and Leadership” program.
“The nice thing is it’s coed,” Budke says. “There (are) not a lot of girls sports offered in the fall.”
A handful of NFL Flag leagues exist in Washington state including leagues in Lakewood, Olympia, Spokane and Walla Walla.
Sequim NFL Flag Football League
What: Flag football for boys and girls up to age 12
Cost: $26 for Boys & Girls Club members; $32 for non-members (includes NFL jersey)
To register: On-line at www.sequimnfl-flag.com
About NFL Flag: flag.nflyouthfootball.com