It’s the off-season after a very eventful year for football in Manitoba, and the winter weather – combined with the Grey Cup hangover – might make some Winnipeggers think football season is on a much-needed break.
According to Football Manitoba’s executive director, however, the sport is alive and well year-round, with hundreds of kids playing the game throughout the winter – but in a slightly different form.
Bill Johnson told 680 CJOB’s Sports Show that Football Manitoba’s indoor flag football league playoffs are just wrapping up, with registration about to open for a spring league in partnership with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
“There’s a lot of kids in this province looking for things to do, a lot of parents who are looking for things for their kids to do who don’t play hockey,” said Johnson.
“In our first year, we had 270 kids (playing flag football), and we’ve grown to 400 in the second year.
“We had to turn kids away this year because of lack of space. It’s booming.”
Johnson said the sport’s appeal comes from its non-violent nature, the fact that no equipment is needed other than a pair of cleats, and the opportunities for kids to get much more playing time than they would on a much larger tackle football team.
For these reasons, he said, it’s the fastest-growing youth sport in the U.S., and becoming increasingly popular in Canada as well.
“Flag is an excellent game,” he said. “For a lot of kids, they just want to be involved all the time. They want that chance to make that toe-tap in the end zone, touchdown grab.
“Flag football gives every kid on the field a chance to do that.”
The five-a-side structure of the game means there’s one quarterback and four eligible receivers, so each kid on the field has an opportunity for a taste of glory.
It’s also, said Johnson, a way for kids of all ages and all skill levels to get involved in a safe, fun game.
“Our league, the Blue Bombers Futures League we run in the spring, is really neat, because we have boys and we have girls and we have kids as young as seven, we have kids as old as 17.
“It’s a real chance for the football community to come together in the greatest sense.”
Players – and their families – in the spring league also get the chance to experience that big-league feel, as the opening and championship games are played at the Bombers’ home stadium, IG Field.
Registration for the spring league begins Feb. 1 and the league runs between May and June.
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