Flag Football Leagues Could Help Preserve Future Of Football
Flag football has "become the fastest-growing team sport" in the U.S., thanks to "thriving leagues" in dozens of cities and towns across the country, according to Drape & Belson of the N.Y. TIMES. Over the past three years, the "number of 6-to-12-year-olds playing flag football has increased" by 38%, to more than 1.5 million. That is "nearly 100,000 more than those who currently play tackle football," according to a Sports & Fitness Industry Association study. The flag football "shift has some high-profile supporters," such as Saints QB Drew Brees, who now "coaches his young sons' teams in a flag football league he co-founded, Football N America." Brees hopes his league will "help keep the sport he loves relevant." He said, "Every parents looks at football now and has reservations. I know I do. If parents feel like the only option is tackle, then there's a danger that a whole generation of kids may never be introduced to the game." Drape & Belson noted the NFL recently "pledged to give annual grants to 400 Boys & Girls Clubs for flag football programs to reach 100,000 players ages 6 to 18." The league also "uses its media megaphone to try to give flag football a higher profile." Few people "predict flag football will replace tackle football at the high school and college level anytime soon, but the game has taken hold in some of the sport's most traditional strongholds." Brees is "bracing for what he acknowledges will be a difficult discussion with his wife ... and his boys if they ask to play tackle." In the meantime, Brees "hopes Football N America, now in its second year and with leagues in 11 cities, can delay that conversation a while longer and perhaps lead him, and other parents, to a more informed decision" (NYTIMES.com, 11/20).