Team Insight

May / June 2019

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I f the major threat to participation in football is safety, then it is imperative for the sport to develop a safer alterna- tive to keep young athletes – who have a basket full of options from which to choose, ranging from other year-round sports to gaming – involved at a young age. That answer just may be flag football. On a national level, interest in flag football is already becoming a factor. In 2018, there were 6.6 million flag football players, ages six and above, in the U.S., an increase from 5.6 million from as recently as 2013. For those who can't do the math, that amounts to 17.1 percent growth for a sport that has seen participation as a whole decreasing in that same time persiod. And, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), of those more than six million players, almost half are "core" players who played flag football on 13 days or more in 2018. Of those, 1.6 million are between six and 17-years old. The strength of flag is most definitely at the youth level. Just 56 high schools sponsor a boys' flag football team, amounting to a mere 1144 players at that level. Of note, though, is that the high school flag football numbers for girls are significantly bigger — 350 teams and 11,007 players. Florida, which has made it a varsity sport for girls, leads the way with 271 schools and nearly 8000 girls playing in that state, where the official ball is the Wilson TDY Youth Leather ball. The other states with a significant number of girls' teams are Nevada (35 schools), California (29) and Alaska (13). At the intercollegiate level, flag football thrives as an intramural sport, organized by the governing body of collegiate intramurals, NIRSA. There's even a national championship in the men's, women's, co-rec and open divisions. The Florida Experience When the varsity football season comes to an end in December in football-mad Florida, that's the cue for girls to begin thinking about their own gridiron experience, as they play varsity flag football in the spring. No marching bands, no cheerleaders and no placekickers (there are no extra-point kicks or field goals), but plenty of passion for a chance to play the state's biggest sport. As a result, team dealers in Florida have another significant – and growing -- football- related revenue stream. "We sell jerseys, footballs and flags to local teams," says Vince Licata, president of Medallion Sporting Goods, Riviera Beach, FL. "We sell cleats to individual players, usually a soccer cleat." "My high school flag football business is grow- ing," adds Joel Dunn, sales rep for Performance Team Sports, Miami, FL, with the greatest strength in youth flag football leagues that usually buy a compression T-shirt and a pair of shorts as a uniform "Our flag football business is picking up steam," echoes Becky Whipp, owner of Dave's Sporting Goods, Vero Beach, FL. "We sell a fair number of cleats and receiver's gloves to individual players. We also sell shorts and tall socks to teams." Middle school flag football, which is co-ed, is growing, too, she reports. The NFL Flags It For the fifth consecutive year, the NFL, USA Football, GENYOUth and Fuel Up to Play 60 are sponsoring the NFL Flag-In-Schools Program. The primary goal of this flag football program is to boost levels of physical activity among children and teenagers, especially students in underserved schools. Since the beginning of this program, more than nine million students have participated in the NFL Flag-in-Schools initiative, which is 20 Team Insight ~ May/June 2019 There is a movement to limiting tackle and letting the flag version teach the next generation of players. TEAM FOOTBALL SALUTE THE FLAG

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