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Popularity of Youth Flag Football Grows

The SYA flag football program opened its second season Sunday with double the number of children registered last year.

The increasingly popular (SYA) spring flag football league opened its second season on Sunday, with games played all over the Centreville-Clifton area, including the league’s first home opener at the .

Officials admit they continue to be surprised by the overpowering response to the league as more youngsters rush to sign up for a spot on the non-contact teams. Participation increased to more than 350 this year, said Gary Flather, SYA president. 

The league is popular because it reduces physical contact and is perceived as being less injury-prone than tackle football, which SYA also offers, Flather said. And, the larger numbers this year have a lot to do with the recruitment efforts of the SYA coaches, Flather said. Overall participation in all SYA programs has remained level at about 14,500 kids. 

“It gives our coaches a chance to see talent and go recruit it for tackle football teams,” Flather said. 

A new development this year is the growth of the number of girls in the league—there are about a dozen girls playing. Angela Nunley, of Centreville, said the sport has been a natural fit for her daughter, Carrington, 10, who also plays catcher on the girl’s softball team. 

“She’s a really tough girl,” Nunley said. “She has three older brothers and she has a really strong arm.”

In flag football, plastic flags are hung from a velcro belt around the player’s waist, said , deputy commissioner of SYA football and a flag football coach.

Players don’t tackle each other, although there is some physical contact. Instead, players make a “tackle” by pulling the flags from the ball carrier or quarterback’s belt, Johnson said. There are no goal posts because the teams don’t kick field goals or punt. Kick-offs, which have a high potential for injuries, are also banned. 

The league is a great way to introduce parents to football, without scaring them off with the violent NFL version of the game, said Johnson, whose father played defensive back for six years for the Dallas Cowboys.

Vera Brown, of Clifton, said it took little convincing to let her son, Marcus, 9, play football. He plays in the spring flag football league and has been on a SYA tackle football team for the past three years. 

“He’s always been a very active boy and he prefers the contact,” Brown said. “He loves the football atmosphere and how every player has to play their role for the team to score.” 

Angela Crute, of Centreville, watched her son, Jayden, 9, play. She said that football helps him concentrate in school. 

“I see a real difference in him when he’s playing football,” Crute said. “He knows he has to keep his grades up if he is going to play football.” 

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