Flag Football Wraps Up on High Note
By Gavin Menu
Football was in the air Sunday afternoon on the Ross School playing fields, but there were no violent collisions or worry written across parents’ faces. Instead it was a celebration, the final day of the inaugural Hamptons Youth Flag Football season, which, by all accounts, seemed to be a huge success this fall.
“I have absolutely no regrets,” said Allison Scanlon, who, along with her husband, Michael, runs Hamptons Youth Sports, an organization that also runs a basketball league in the winter. “I had so much help from so many people and it’s been a great success.”
The flag football league was formed with hopes of bringing out enough kids to fill a handful of teams this fall. Scanlon had seen her children and others playing pick-up football so many times at Mashashimuet Park that she started a grassroots campaign to begin a more organized league, spreading the word on Facebook and at school meetings.
“The first day 100 people came to sign up,” she said. “I thought if we got 50 we would have been lucky, so it was a pleasant surprise. And once the season started we had to turn kids away because our insurance was only for 100 kids.”
Children between third and sixth grade, mostly from Sag Harbor and some from East Hampton, registered and 12 teams were formed under the banner of local sponsors, six for each age group.
Sean Beyel Plumbing took first-place honors in the fifth- and sixth-grade division with a record of 4-1-2 while Healthy Business Group won the third- and fourth-grade division with a league-best record of 6-1.
Morrissey Advisory Services, Harbor Construction, Saskas Surveying, Black Dog Builders and Hardy Plumbing and Heating also sponsored third and fourth grade teams while P.F. Estate Care, Bach Grazina Orthodontics, Casual Water Pools, Dayton, Ritz and Osborne Insurance and Witty and Gazda Construction sponsored the older clubs. Sagaponack Window Washing and Estia’s Little Kitchen also helped fund the league as separate sponsors.
When the Scanlons launched the league earlier this year they turned to Ross School Athletic Directory Jaye Cohen, who moved his family to the East End three years ago from Maryland, where flag football is a popular sport. Cohen not only helped secure field time at Ross School, but he also helped teach and develop the rules and obtain equipment like flags and footballs.
“It was something that my boys really missed,” said Cohen, whose sons are 14 and 12 years old. “I feel passionately about it and I really respect Mike and Allison for what they’re trying to do and how they want to do it. It really clicks with my philosophy of how to run an athletic program.”
The rules of the league are relatively simple and are based on the actual game of football, although the field is only 70 yards long as opposed to the regulation 100 yards. Six players compete at any given time for each team, there is no kicking game and a new player must rotate in on every play, which is designed to give the players equal playing time.
Among the 95 total players this fall, 10 were girls, and while there were clearly some outstanding athletes spread across the fields on Sunday, there were other children who, whether it was because of size, strength or gender, might not have had the chance to play football otherwise.
“My son is 65 pounds and some of the kids his age are 120 pounds,” said Jay Flanagan, whose son, Conor, 10, competed and excelled in the league this fall. “This was a little less daunting than PAL.”
Allison Scanlon, whose sons Seamus, 11, Colin, 10 and daughter Niamh, 8, played in the league, spoke to the issue of younger children playing contact football in the Police Athletic League (PAL) programs in East Hampton and Southampton, which are well regarded and compete against other programs from across Long Island. Scanlon said the flag football league requires a much smaller level of commitment with less practice and no travel. Because there is no contact, flag football is more accessible to boys and girls of all skill levels and physical make-up.
“There are a lot of good things about PAL, but it’s not for everybody,” said Scanlon, whose sons participated in full–contact football in the past. “PAL is a huge commitment, August through November, and you practice three or four times per week. This is much more informal.”
Some parents attending games on Sunday spoke passionately about what the league had done for their children’s confidence this fall, while others were simply happy to have another healthy activity for their kids to choose from. And Scanlon believes that flag football can also help kids develop skills that can be used later in contact football, especially since players are required to rotate through all the positions each game.
“We had two kids who were struggling to make the weight limit in PAL,” Scanlon said. “They were big, so of course they were being put on the line all the time. Out here they turned out to be two of the best quarterbacks we had.”