Flag football continues to grow as a youth sport with limited contact

Photo by Cody Gear Tournament was held in the shadow of the Estadio Nacional

A big week in youth flag football concluded Sunday as the Spartans won a round robin tournament held in La Sabana Park. The tournament, which was hosted and sponsored by the Federation of American Football in Costa Rica, held the tournament to honor the National Sports Day in Costa Rica.

Preparation for the tournament began last week and was held adjacent to the Estadio Nacional in La Sabana.

Paolo Vincenzi, who is a federation commissioner and the coach of the Spartans said it was a great opportunity for the curious to see what this sport looks like. Vincenzi said many are familiar with traditional tackle football but that flag football is a relatively non-contact sport.

The game is played using rules similar to tackle football with some minor exceptions. Instead of tackling the opponent, the removal of a “flag” from his flag belt signals the end of the play. Instead of the traditional 10 yards to gain a first down with four attempts, flag football only allows three attempts to make a first down with a longer yard to gain standard.

Expats living here know that children are playing tackle football at a very early age. Vincenzi said in the United States children are exposed to American football at a very young age. Through organizations such as Pop Warner as well as local community-based programs such as Grey Y (sponsored by the YMCA) and local governments via city or county recreation departments, kids in the States have opportunities that Costa Rican youngsters do not.

By the time youngsters in the States reach Junior high school they have received an excellent foundation in position techniques and a good understanding of the game, the coach said.

Many go on to play high school and college football. For those who excel, universities in the United States offer scholarships which pay for a complete college education. Vincenzi said that with the sport spreading to other countries, the universities are now looking at talent in other places beside the United States.

Several major universities have given scholarships to players from Mexico, Germany, Haiti, and Great Britain. When asked if this could be a glimpse into the future where flag football could lead to a college scholarship, he said he didn’t know but his hope is that some deserving young man would be one day.

Vincenzi said there are currently seven flag football teams within the league. Flag football began here in 2009 with just four teams, he noted, adding that he hoped, the sport will continue to grow and that he encourages anyone who wants to participate with a current team or by forming a team is welcomed. Vincenzi can be reached through the federation Web site:  www.fefacr.org.

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