At least one version of football for kids is bursting at the seams in Metro Vancouver and beyond.
Certainly, concussion awareness in recent years has hurt registration numbers for the traditional tackle leagues. Associations have since been working hard to ensure proper tackling techniques are taught with training and certification of coaches required. The Vancouver Mainland Football League has also decided to drop contact at the Atom level (for eight-and-nine-year-olds) altogether.
What VMFL clubs don’t have to worry about is interest in flag football which has reached staggering numbers and is attracting athletes from all sports.
That was evident recently at Hugh Boyd Park which saw the Richmond Raiders host one of the VMFL regular season jamborees.
In what had to be the biggest sporting event in the city this year, over 180 teams took to the mini fields with all of Boyd’s turf and grass fields fully utilized.
It was easy to see why the sport is so appealing.
The five-on-five format means all players have to be engaged on every single play. The foot work — whether it be running pass routes or providing one-on-one defensive coverage — makes it a terrific cross-training activity for such other sports as hockey, lacrosse and basketball. As does the eye and hand coordination required for catching or knocking down balls. Equipment cost is minimal.
This has resulted in co-ed and even all-female teams registering to play.
The season format is attractive to parents as well.
The jamboree schedule features 25-minute games and multiple opponents on a single day at the same venue. The two-month season will conclude in a couple weeks at the B.C. Provincial Football Association’s Flag Football Championships in Kelowna. The event is strictly optional.
The flag version also includes levels beyond the VMFL for elite players, including provincial teams playing for national championships sanctioned by Football Canada.
The popularity in flag football has resulted in the Richmond Raiders fielding 10 teams this season, ranging from the U19 to the U10 divisions, according to club president Aarron Thompson.
The greatest representation comes at the U12 and U14 levels where Richmond has six teams participating. These two divisions feature a whopping 98 entries.
Thompson added most of the club’s fall season players participate in flag football, as well as kids who have never played before. Those are the potential candidates the Raiders and other VMFL clubs are trying to attract to the tackle version of the game. Incentives are offered to the flag players including discounts in registration.
At least they know the interest in the sport is certainly there.
For more information on the Raiders’ football programs visit raidersfootball.ca.