Now that the Little Leaguers have put away their gloves and bats, it is time for active, athletic boys — and girls — to transition immediately into flag football. Indeed, the sporting life for kids in grades three through five and grades five through eight continues without interruption.
Flag football is open to boys and girls in grades three through five and an older group for grades five through eight. The games are played Saturday mornings; the younger kids play at 9 a.m. on the Cambria Grammar School grounds at 3223 Main St. and fifth through eighth graders play at 10 a.m. at the grammar school. The first games were played Saturday, June 15.
Norm Martin, who serves as the referee, started the flag football program four years ago when the “Colt” youth tackle program was struggling to get enough boys to come out. “I went to the Cambria Youth Athletic Association and proposed it as a non-contact sport, and they agreed to sponsor it,” Martin explained in a phone interview. “Kids love it and it’s a lot easier going than tackle football. We have four teams, six players to a team, and kids are playing kids from Cambria. I love it,” said Martin, “because I love football and when there is no NFL I still get to be around football.”
Girls are welcome to play flag football — but thus far no girls have signed up this season; that said, Martin said that any girl or boy who wishes to play ($35 for registration and you get a T-shirt) can “walk on” during their Saturday morning games, which begin at 10 a.m.
One of the rules that Martin sticks with is that “every child must have an opportunity to advance the ball,” either by carrying the ball or receiving a pass. “The center can get a pass, the guards can get passes. It’s a stickler with me that every child gets the ball at least once in a half.”
A phone call to Danny Cashdan, whose son DJ is on the team called “Blue Flying Pandas,” results in this response: “I think it’s great. Somebody needs to teach these kids the fundamentals before they get into high school football.
“A lot of boys are reticent about playing tackle football at that age,” Cashdan explained. “They’re afraid they’re going to get hurt. But playing flag football helps build their confidence, and when those hormones kick in about ninth grade, they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.”
The flag football program runs every Saturday through July 27, so interested kids can still show up Saturday mornings and sign up at that time, according to Martin.