As of 2015, studies show that flag football is the fastest growing youth sport in the United States, greatly outpacing the growth of traditional tackle football. Many individual high schools are making the switch to flag football over tackle, getting other schools in their regions to follow suit creating organized leagues and divisions. It’s even an officially recognized varsity sport in many states, and with women especially flag football is a way to allow easier participation versus the physical nature of tackle.And he’s not the only one. Recently Drew Brees was interviewed by Peter King for NBC’s pregame show and had some strong words on why he believes flag football is the answer. “I feel like flag football can save football,” Brees said. Brees coaches his son’s flag football team, and played flag football himself through junior high, never playing tackle football until high school. “I feel like (flag football) is a great introductory method for a lot of kids into football,” Brees mentioned. “Otherwise I feel it’s very easy to go in and have a bad experience early on and then not want to ever play it again. I feel like once you put the pads on there are just so many other elements to the game, and you’re at the mercy of the coach in a lot of cases too. And to be honest, I don’t think enough coaches are well-versed enough in regards to the true fundamentals of the game especially when the pads go on at the youth level.” Many other pro athletes and coaches have expressed similar sentiments as well, singing praises for the sport of flag football, and the rise in popularity of the sport echoes that.
Flag football isn’t a fluke or just a recreational development tool that feeds into tackle football, it’s a full-fledged movement that has it’s own identity and purpose and it’s time we recognized that distinction.
Internationally it is gaining popularity as well, much faster it seems than traditional American football where the barrier to entry is much higher with the need for full pads and gear. In Mexico for instance, flag football is booming in popularity, where most consider it to be the #2 sport to soccer and closing fast, with and estimated 2.5 million kids participating just at the elementary school level. International teams are starting to make the trip to some of the more popular American flag football tournaments, with representation from Panama, Indonesia, Bahamas, Mexico, Canada and more a common occurrence.
Everywhere you look, participation and interest in the sport flag football is exploding.
At an adult level, it was a record year for the sport of flag football. New major tournaments are popping up across the world, seeing thousands of teams competing across all age groups, formats and styles. Cash prizes have been at an all time high, expected to eclipse over $100,000 in team giveaways in the next calendar year. Sponsors have started taking notice as well, with the likes of EA Sports, Nerf, Hotels.com, Red Bull and other major brands seeing the value and growth from flag football as a way to effectively reach their target audience in large numbers. Women’s participation is at an all-time high as well, mirroring it’s popularity at the youth level, and is the preferred format of play for American football in most Central to South American countries.
So how does this all lead back to the Olympics and getting American football included as an official sport? First, let’s review a little history on where the sport stands today with the International Olympic Committee, or IOC.