By Brandon Jenkins
Early this fall a gentleman by the name of Kevin Farrell and Prime Time Athletics brought an NFL approved Youth Flag Football league to the Rockwall-Heath area. Texas is currently one of five states in the country fielding such an opportunity. While marketing and spreading the word of the newly formed league Farrell came across the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Rockwall. Kevin and Prime Time were gracious enough to extend a helping hand to the club and sponsor four teams between the Rockwall and Royse City campuses.
The excitement grew among the club kids, the opportunity to play in an organized season with actual referees had never been considered as a fall activity. Each player was provided with an actual game jersey they would use on game days. Teams voted on which NFL team they would represent. Next the process began of splitting the kids into separate divisions (ages 5-6, 7-8, 9-11 and 12-14) to keep the competition and games fun.
Its no secret the game of football can be dangerous. If you havent been living under a rock you are no stranger to the conversations regarding concussions and long-term brain damage from repeated blows to the head. The sudden death of long-time Pro Bowl NFL Linebacker Junior Seau is one of many tragic deaths resulting from football related injuries. When Seau committed suicide in May of 2012, it was revealed he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (commonly referred to as “CTE”). This led to a multi-million dollar lawsuit and a string of former players suing the league, and a new discussion on the “safety” of our children playing the sport of Football.
Youth Flag Football is the safe and responsible alternative to your children suffering from broken bones or serious injury before they even hit the age of 14. I doubt this would ever happen, but can you imagine a society where the children in America waited until they were in high school to put the pads on? I am sure this is not something the NFL wants to hear but its a reality they have to deal with.
The truth is, kids under 14 need to learn the game. They are still very much developing physically and mentally at such young ages. The Flag version of the game offers many of the same things the full contact version of the sport offers without the high risk of brain injury. In this flag league, kids are encouraged to learn the rules, learn how to run an offense or defense, they are introduced to the concept of a coin toss, they learn different drills and, most important, build life skills they can use in their adult lives. Working together as a team, exercising, and showing respect for leaders helps to build a servant leadership attitude at a young age.
I have watched and coached a group of 12 kids, most of whom have never played a game of actual football in their entire lives. Because of their consistent workmanship, hours of dedication and time in the study room, the club kids have blossomed into self-confident learners. The score doesnt matter so much but the Rockwall Lions walked onto AT&T field and beat the Rockwall Bears 41-6. The previous three weeks had been 3 straight losses. But it wasnt about the score, it was about gearing up all week for potentially the biggest game of their lives. To see a young man like Thane Holt intercept a pass and return it for a touchdown put a big smile on my face. Vincent Tancredi who has never played in his life, making defense stops and throwing his arms up with joy because of his performance hit me in the heart. Watching a group of kids, who I work with every day, communicating, encouraging, motivating and flat out supporting each other made every Saturday morning worth it. If it wasnt for this opportunity I cant tell you where they might be in their lives today.
No matter where you lay your hat on the “Football debate,” it is clear with this group of kids that it has brought us all closer together. Members dont want to leave the club because of their desire to stay longer and put in more hours of practice time. I am honored to be a part of their lives. Not to mention the supportive parents and community that rallies behind us every single Saturday.
A huge thank you to all involved.
Photo: From Left to Right
Top: Assistant Coach Allison Torres, Vincent Tancredi, Oscar Monarrez, Head Coach Brandon Jenkins, Thane Holt, Cristian Duran
Bottom: Cody James, Brandon Wallace, Konner Pounds and Dakota Taylor
Not Pictured: Audra Larson, Emma Larson and Defensive Coordinator Eric Wing.
Brandon Jenkins is the Site Director at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Rockwall location in Royse City. To learn more about the Rockwall and Royse City clubs visit: www.begreatnext.org