Football is the most popular sport in America, with 37 percent of people claiming it as their favorite sport to watch. But it’s a different story when you ask parents what sport they want their kids to play. In fact, 78 percent of American adults don’t think tackle football is appropriate for children under age 14.
Even high-profile supporters of the game—like Drew Brees—have reservations about their children playing tackle football. After all, the bone-jarring hits players receive can cause concussions, neck injuries, and other trauma. Tackle football has also received criticism for the steady stream of high school, college, and NFL players who have developed chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease that can cause lifelong neurocognitive problems.
Fortunately, there’s another form of the sport that has much less physical contact—flag football. There’s been a shift in recent years toward this milder way to play the game. In fact, the number of 6- to 12-year-olds playing flag football has surpassed the number currently playing tackle football. Its popularity has grown so much that flag football is now the fastest-growing team sport in the US.
The youth flag football programs at i9 Sports® are perfect for families who want their young athletes to enjoy playing America’s most popular sport without the risk of head injuries. Our leagues are a popular choice for parents across the country, even among those who played tackle football in their youth, because kids benefit from learning the game with less risk of injury.
Brees, who played in the NFL for 20 seasons, now coaches his young sons’ flag football teams. He thinks of it as a safer way to introduce the next generation to the sport, and he’s absolutely right. But flag football could be more than just a stepping stone—it could be the future of football as we know it.
It could be some time before flag football fully replaces tackle football at the high school and college level. Still, even long-established tackle programs are siphoning off players to newly founded flag leagues in places like Chicago and Alabama, states with some of the sport’s most traditional strongholds. Flag football programs for children under age 14 are also becoming more popular and well-funded thanks to donations by big names like the Chicago Bears. Meanwhile, tackle football programs among this age group are rapidly losing funding around the country.
As a parent, you deserve to make informed decisions about your child’s present and future health. If you’re considering enrolling your child in football, flag is the way to go, especially for athletes under age 14.
Youth flag programs at places like i9 Sports® are more widely available today than ever before. Plus, coaches, Hall of Famers, and other football experts agree—kids don’t need to play tackle at a young age to become great football players someday. In fact, some of the most renowned players in NFL history didn’t play tackle football until high school. Flag football is the safe way to teach kids the fundamentals of the game without risking trauma on a young, developing brain.
Football—both tackle and flag—has traditionally been a male-dominated sport. But as flag football leagues gain popularity among boys, the sport is also taking off among college-age female athletes.
In the summer of 2020, women’s flag football officially became a collegiate sport. This has created a new opportunity for women to earn scholarships playing a version of the sport their brothers, fathers, and grandfathers have played for 100 years.
Title IX, which passed in 1972, prohibited sex-based discrimination in schools, educational programs, and, most notably, youth sports. Thanks to this landmark legislation, women have been playing flag football at the high school level since 1998. However, its recent introduction at the collegiate level not only expands the game of flag football but makes it more accessible to women as well. Who knows—this could open the door to starting a WNFL one day.
Is your son or daughter interested in playing flag football? If so, i9 Sports® is the youth sports league for you! We will never stop doing everything we can to better the world of youth sports, including offering flag football in partnership with USA Football. Our focus is on providing age-appropriate instruction, fun for kids, and convenience for busy families. With a presence in 1,000 communities across the United States, you’re bound to find an i9 Sports® office near you. Reach out to us today!