The YMCA of Northwest Louisiana is changing its football program from tackle to flag football only. The sports director said it’s an effort to follow the latest science and keep up with other YMCA facilities in bigger cities that have made this move while still preparing kids to play tackle football in high school.
“It’s not really the concussions that are the issue because you can get a concussion playing any sport. It’s more the repetitive hits. So tackle is a great game. I enjoy watching it in high school and college football. But it’s changed a lot over the years. I think kids are bigger and more athletic so you’re seeing a lot more injuries than you used to see. I think this is a way for the Y to curve it and say this is what we are going to do. You can still play high school football by playing flag,” said Jonathan Ford, sports director of YMCA northwest Louisiana.
More than a thousand kids participate in the YMCA football league locally. Ford said their mission as a wellness center keeps them focused on the latest scientific research.
“After we read and see the research why would we keep doing this?” Ford said.
Ford said playing flag will not inhibit young players from going professional. He compares it to legendary players who did not play tackle until high school, including Jerry Rice, Lawrence Taylor, Walter Payton, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees.
“You don’t have to play tackle football to make it the NFL. They’re going out on the routes, they’re learning to cover on defense, they’re learning all these different skills they wouldn’t learn otherwise. Everybody needs to learn foot work, everbody needs hand-eye coordination. So it’s beneficial for them to play flag and we are going to teach them proper stances. Everything the high school coaches are saying they lack,” Ford said.
Ford said this move is supported by local high school coaches and doctors.
It’s their way to protect young kids while still learning the skills needed to play big.
Ford said flag football is the fatest growing sport in the country. They think it will attract parents who have been hesitant before to sign up their kids. Registration is open.