One of the great things about football is that it can be played in many different ways. There is, of course, tackle football that is played from the youth level, through high school and college, and to the highest level of the NFL. There’s also the old two-hand touch version of football that has been played for years in playgrounds, backyards, and yes, even in the basement of one’s home.
Yes, I’m guilty of the latter but that’s a story for another day.
And then there’s the growing phenomenon of flag football that is played by competitors of all ages including kids and adults.
For those unfamiliar with flag football, it contains many of the same fundamentals that you see in tackle football, but without the helmets, shoulder pads and the same contact. You wear a belt with straps attached by velcro. Tackles are made not by bringing your opponent to the ground but by grabbing one of those flags. It’s a game that some kids will play to learn the game before they and their parents decide that they’re ready for tackle football.
It’s also a great option and landing spot for the child who just isn’t comfortable with the contact that comes with tackle football but still loves the game and wants to play. My son Jared, who turns 7 this week (Happyy Birthday Jared!) is a perfect example of that, as he will start playing flag football this fall. He likes football and is eager to step onto the gridiron in September because this version of the sport is right up his alley.
Two years ago, Jared had an itch to try tackle football because his older brother Bradley has been playing for years. My wife Sheryl and I were stunned because Jared had never expressed an interest in playing. But, since he wanted to play, we decided to go ahead and let him try.
Three days later, the experiment was over.
Jared, although he liked the concept of football, just wasn’t happy with the contact and there’s no shame in that. Tackle football is not for everyone but the sport of football is still popular with many kids. Jared likes playing with his brother and friends in the backyard or at the park, but he wasn’t thrilled with the idea of getting tackled.
So Jared’s football career was over as fast as it started….that was until last year when he overheard Bradley and I having a conversation about a friend of his that was playing flag football. Jared was very curious and asked what flag football was. I explained it to him and his eyes lit up. He said he wanted to play because it didn’t involve contact.
So I called the local flag football program in our town to register Jared for flag football but there was a problem. Jared was going into first grade and you had to be going into at least second grade in order to be eligible to play.
The past is in the past and this week my wife and I will register Jared for flag football and he is pumped up. Last summer, he went to a football camp and participated in the USA Football Protection Tour stop at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey to whet his appetite so he is ready to go.
When we’re in a sporting goods store, he gets excited when he sees the football stuff, especially the flag football kit that comes with all the belts and flags. It is a perfect example of how football is for everyone.
Whether it’s tackle, two-hand touch, or flag, football is a sport for all ages and it can be played in many different ways. My older son Bradley is 11 and loves tackle football. He’s a bruiser that loves to mix it up and strives to be the best center he can be. Jared also likes football but didn’t care for the contact so he’s found a way to play and be happy doing it.
Flag football is a great way for so many people to be involved in this great game and our family is excited to see Jared participate this fall. It’s a fun version of football that gives kids the ability to show off their skills while learning the same basic fundamentals that are taught in tackle football.
Thanks to flag football, Jared can yell “hut” without having to worry about getting tackled. That is great for the sport all around because anyone at any skill level or interest can play the game.
Peter is a sports anchor for the CBS Sports Radio Network and WCBS 880 Radio in New York. His son Bradley plays youth football for the Levittown Red Devils in the Nassau-Suffolk Football League on Long Island while his younger son Jared will begin playing flag football this coming fall. Peter, his wife Sheryl and the boys are busy cheering on the New York Jets when they’re not at a youth football field.