SUMMERSIDE – Excited young players sometimes needed guidance on the scrimmage line, but that was the whole idea backing new under-12 and under-10 divisions of flag football play in P.E.I., which began last weekend in Summerside.
Football P.E.I. intends the new leagues to get kids into football at a younger age, developing them through flag football to feed into tackle football programs already in place, but fun and exercise seem to be a major focus for the coaches and players.
“It’s a fun game, kids get to play as a team, and it’s a totally different skill set than hockey and soccer so it is something different for the kids,” described Summerside Spartans coach John Turner as he organized his U-12 team for their first game.
“It’s much safer: it’s a non-contact sport, it’s about grabbing the flag,” he emphasized, though he had no trouble interesting some of his atom-level tackle football players from last fall to be on the team.
David Henderson plays on the men’s tackle program with the Maritime Football League Charlottetown Privateers and coaches the U-12 flag football team of the same name. He also seemed to have little trouble rounding up players, including his 12-year-old daughter who doesn’t play any other sports.
“She likes to play catch with us in the front yard and expressed an interest in playing; I didn’t really have to pressure her at all,” he said, noting that she has also watched him play tackle football so the interest is her own.
He recognizes the benefits from the amount of exercise, fun, and life skills to be practiced such as teamwork and camaraderie; the experiences of winning, losing and doing so with grace; as well as simply playing and getting the exercise. But it is league play, and he is coaching for a lot of the same development skills in drills and practice routines.
On another field, Souris and Stratford under-10s made that approach make sense, as their coaches were on the scrimmage line reminding players of the formalities of play as their youthful attentions were focused on getting the ball.
The Privateers’ coach knows there will be some growing pains, but expects to see some good athletes play some excellent football and is willing to simply let the end results play out.
The teams in the new divisions also include the Souris Wildcats, Stratford Broncos, and Cornwall Timberwolves. Other than the initial Saturday contests played at Eric Johnston Field, games will be hosted on Sundays in each community, to provide the opportunity to widely promote the sport.
For those interested in helping out, there will be a flag football Learn to Coach course on Saturday, May 17, at 10 a.m. at West Royalty School. It will run from 10 a.m. to noon. The course will help new coaches, parents, and volunteers learn to run some introductory flag football and coaching initiatives. A minimum of five coaches is needed to run the course. Football P.E.I. will handle the cost of the course, and contact is firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
Football P.E.I. will also be hosting the 2014 flag football nationals on July 24-27 in Charlottetown.