The Recreation Commission heard a proposal Monday night from two town residents for a coed fall flag football league for kids aged 7 to 14.
Pawcatuck resident Bob Dimock and Stonington resident Jessica Linicus are proposing the league as a non-contact alternative for kids who don't want to play tackle football and as a way to promote general health in the video-game age.
"Our kids played (youth tackle football). We had a great experience. But everyone knows about the concussion issues involved in football," said Dimock, who helped set up the adult flag league run by the Westerly-Pawcatuck YMCA. "And it's not just tackling. It's any time you take a hit, whether you're falling down, you're hit on the side, the linemen ... it's a scope of a whole different range of issues. We're looking for a safe alternative, and there's nothing in the surrounding communities."
Dimock also said the flag league would not be segmented into weight classes, only age groups. High school kids would be recruited to referee.
"What this does is it develop skills not necessarily developed in football in a safer way. It's 5-on-5, you're developing overall health, your coordination ... just overall conditioning," Dimock said. "I think the big issue is the health of the kids, having something else to go to. Most kids go home and get on the Wii or the X-Box. This is a sport where you're using your agility."
Another factor Dimock cited was the fun factor.
"In (tackle) football, it's hard to get kids in skill positions," he said. "In flag football, you can get the ball in kids' hands, and they can really have fun."
In response to a question from commission member Paulla Solar about whether the league would be coed, Linicus said, "I think we would definitely allow girls to play."
"What we're proposing is a program through the town that we could grow," Dimock said. "What we're hoping to do is reach out to other towns and grow it in a way that other towns can start their programs."
"I think it's a great idea," commission member Joe Ciriello, who noted that the National Football League honored a female as the best flag football player in the nation at the Super Bowl in February. "It teaches all the athletic skills that would be applicable to soccer, lacrosse, basketball, without the contact/head injury issue. It fits all the criteria we would like for programs for our rec department to be affiliated with."
The NFL is one of the largest sanctioning bodies for flag football. In their version, the field is 30 yards by 70 yards, with two 10-yard endzones. There are several no-run zones within the field of play to encourage a mix of plays.
Linicus said she and Dimock already have a group of kids interested in playing and they plan to promote the league through an intramural flag program are running in the elementary schools in the spring and through fliers in May and June.
Recreation Commission Chairman C. Michael Crowley asked Dimock and Linicus for a month to assess field availability, and the issue was tabled till next month's commission meeting.
Would you like to see a flag football option in town? Tell us in the comments.