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Flag Football: All The Advantages, None of the Disadvantages
As tackle football deals with the concussion effect and grapples with how to make the sport safer, flag football has emerged as one of the fastest growing youth sports in the country.  Already nearly 100,000 more 6 -12 year olds play the sport compared to tackle football, according to a study by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, which has analyzed youth athletic trends for 40 years (2018).

Enrollment in flag football youth leagues has been driven by Millennials and Gen X parents. These two generations are considered one of the most competent parenting generations in terms of the importance they place on both the safety and enrichment of their children’s lives. It only follows that these parents would seek safer alternatives to traditional tackle football. Why risk it with tackle when flag football can nurture many of the same skills that are acquired by playing traditional football? The fact that star players like Tom Brady didn’t play organized tackle football until high school lends a lot of credibility to the argument that children are not missing out by playing flag football earlier in life.

In an interview with the Boston Globe, Tom Brady Sr. describes his preference for flag football at younger ages:

“I think that flag football is terrific. Everything you need to know about the game and about playing with teammates you can learn there. You can be as well-prepared for high school as if you started playing [tackle football] at seven years of age.”

In addition to safety, flag football offers other advantages as well: co-ed and all-girls teams can be more easily assembled.  As of right now, only 10% of tackle football players are female. Flag football is a more conducive avenue to increasing female participation in the sport; especially given the psychological benefits that playing football has on girls. For instance, a study conducted by the University of Alabama found that teenage girls who play football have higher levels of confidence and self-esteem than those who play other sports that are more popular among females.

Flag football is also less expensive to play, which decreases cost barriers for schools and parents. This is specially truth in areas of low socio-economic development, where participation in organized sports can benefit low-income students the most.

A few organizations have capitalized on flag football’s rising popularity. National Flag Football, based of West Bloomfield, Michigan, is one of those specializing solely on flag football. NFF organizes leagues in 12 states and tournaments and championships across the country.

Although football has been and will always be a huge influence on American sports culture, flag football has emerged as a safer alternative for young players while still allowing them to cultivate a love for the game. 

Sources

The Aspen Institute – The Benefits of Switching from Tackle to Flag Football for Youth (2018)

The New York Times – The Future of Football Has Flags (2018)

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