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Flag Football: A Safe Alternative

There are more than one million kids participating in high school football nationwide. At some point in their young careers they were taught the complexities of the game – rules, positions, verbiage, etc.

Obviously, that is an important part of a players’ development. But there are plenty of youngsters who aren’t yet ready for the demands of football with full-pads. For these kids, flag football is a safe and smart indoctrination to the world of organized football.

Created during World War II by military personnel, flag football was a way for men who didn’t have access to helmets or pads to play football. It has expanded since then, having a huge intramural following in colleges across the country. There are also leagues for varying age groups all over the nation.

In flag football, a player is “tackled” when a flag that is attached to the belt is ripped off by an opponent. For children who may not be physically ready for a big hit—or for parents who would prefer to save the hitting till the kids are older—this is their game.

The benefits of learning the game through traditional tackle football opposed to flag football are few, if any. In fact, one of the most successful high school football coaches in the area, West Allegheny’s Bob Palko, says it doesn’t bother him if a child doesn’t play in midget leagues.

“So many kids come up through the youth leagues as All-Stars and they dominate, then these other kids that were so much better than catch up to them. That’s hard for some kids to handle,” said the long-time head coach. “I think it’s just as well they play flag football at that age.”

Although there is no tackling, the game is still physical. Most leagues require an offensive and defensive line, which means there will be blocking. And without any helmets or pads, there will be bumps and bruises, too. But if you are looking for a less intense and cheaper alternative to tackle football, flag football might be the way to go.

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