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10 Lessons all grassroots sports ( specifically ' soccer' ) can learn from 'Flag Football'


It's Super Bowl week leading up to the NFL's Super Bowl this coming Sunday ( February 12)

Sunday February 5th saw the NFL's All Star Game - ' The Pro Bowl' which for the first time featured 7 v 7 Flag Football.

What is ' Flag Football ' ? Flag football is a variant of American football where, instead of tackling players to the ground, the defensive team must remove a flag or flag belt from the ball carrier ("deflagging") to end a down. For Non Americans - think a similar game to 7 -a-side ' touch rugby '


In 2018, the Aspen Institute declared a major shift in football had occurred. Citing numbers from the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, an advocacy group of sporting goods retailers and manufacturers, the Aspen Institute noted that for the first time, more American kids ages 6-12 were playing flag football (3.3 percent of that age group) than tackle football (2.9 percent). The National Football League sponsors flag leagues.According to the NFL, flag football is among the fastest-growing sports in the U.S.


“Flag is played by 20 million people in more than 100 countries,” said Troy Vincent, the former NFL cornerback and the league’s executive vice president of football operations who is spearheading the flag football initiative (according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, 7 million kids 6 years and older and up played flag last year in the U.S) and increasingly a sport popular with girls ( See ' California makes flag football a girls’ high school sport' )


This blog will look at the lessons which all sports can learn from the success of Flag Football but especially association football- ' Soccer


NFL Involvement


In 2010, 6.8 million kids ages 6 and older played tackle football, compared to a slightly lower number than that for flag, according to SFIA data. By 2015, the year after the NFL’s USA Football check, tackle had declined to 6.2 million, but flag dipped even further to 5.8 million, according to the SFIA. Starting in 2016 as the NFL began ramping up its investments in flag, however, participation rates for the first time exceeded tackle. In 2021 the gap exceeded 1.6 million with more kids playing flag than tackle, according to SFIA.

Read further here :


Olympic Proposal

Flag football is one of nine sports that last month petitioned for inclusion in the 2028 Los Angeles Games, alongside motorsports, cricket, karate, baseball/softball, lacrosse, kickboxing, breaking and squash.

Flag football is one of nine sports that last month petitioned for inclusion in the 2028 Los Angeles Games, alongside motorsports, cricket, karate, baseball/softball, lacrosse, kickboxing, breaking and squash.



Worldwide there continues to be enormous interest in football as evidenced by World Cup TV audiences and sales of football related E-Games e.g. FIFA

There has, however , been a worldwide decrease in the numbers of registered players playing traditional 11-a-side football in organised leagues and competitions ( see evidence in the UK here ) The decline in traditional grassroots 11-a-side football is mirrored in England with similar trends in Rugby Union ( + here ) and Cricket

The reasons for such declines are varied but common aspects include changing work/leisure lifestyles and the reluctance of teenagers and adults to commit to playing every weekend for 8 months as well as the obligation to attend training and practice sessions. These societal changes are unlikely to slow down

For football, however , there has been a massive increase in the numbers playing informally, not in competitors or leagues and largely 5-a-side. The estimates for 5-a-side football in England here and here would put these numbers at 1.5 million - more than playing in traditional 11-a-side leagues.

These trends are repeated throughout the world - decreased formal organised 11-a-side football but increased and growing informal, largely 5-a-side football


10 Lessons all grassroots sports ( specifically ' soccer' ) can learn from 'Flag Football'

  1. It's FUN: Whilst there are some regional and national tournaments , Flag Football, is essentially a local community based Fun PLAY activity. Teams can change weekly. Trying to win is encourage but the result is not the KEY reason for participating !

  2. High activity: Really high levels of aerobic exercise

  3. Everyone plays: Suitable for all ages and genders

  4. Flexible: all that is required is an area of land - outdoor or indoor and play can take place all year round

  5. Safe: with no tackling

  6. Cheap: no expensive equipment required nor need to travel

  7. Standard rules : same rules wherever played

  8. Name : Simply universally known as ' Flag Football'

  9. Backed by NFL: think of FIFA backing a global small sided game for all ages and genders and then promoting it !

  10. Registration data: Engaging with players and parents maintains long term interest !










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