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New Humboldt County flag football league coming in 2024 – Times-Standard - FlagSpin

New Humboldt County flag football league coming in 2024 – Times-Standard

The logo of the Humboldt Flag League, Humboldt County’s soon-to-be youth flag football league which aims to begin in 2024. (Humboldt Flag League/Contributed)

A new flag football league will be coming to Humboldt County in 2024, with the Humboldt Flag League. It will be a youth flag football league that will be based in Arcata with hopes to expand countywide.

Founder/commissioner Matt Smith-Caggiano first was introduced to flag football when he was in the Air Force and he and others would partake in squadron sports, and he formed an affinity for the sport.

​The league is part of the NFL Flag, an NFL-backed youth league that has over 600,000 players and 1,600 teams. The league aims to be more inclusive for girls to get involved as well as avoiding contact to help prevent head injuries.

“The issues involving head injuries, all the issues that are revolving around the violence in tackle football,” Smith-Caggiano, “There’s a lot of parents that are hesitant getting them (children) into tackle football,”

Now Smith-Caggiano lives in Arcata, and Arcata doesn’t currently have a youth flag football league, Smith-Caggiano saw a commercial for NFL Flag and decided that he could help fill the missing role.

There’s one current flag football league in Humboldt County currently, Redwood Beasts Youth Athletics, which Smith-Caggiano looks forward to co-existing with.

The Redwood Beasts league is also pretty new, starting in 2021 but Smith-Caggiano plans to have his league be in a different time of year to enjoy better weather and longer days without overlapping schedules.

A registration date isn’t currently set in stone but Smith-Caggiano hopes it will be “in a month or two” as he’s still ironing out details with local parks and recreation departments, with the inaugural season coming in the late spring or early summer.

While Smith-Caggiano is creating the league for the youth, after numerous inquiries he’s planning on having an adult league, for which he envisions a slow-pitch softball adjacent league where adults can enjoy flag football as well.

The differences between tackle and flag football are slight but it leads to a distinctly different game. The field is smaller and is typically played 7-on-7 or 5-on-5 rather than the 11-on-11 on traditional football, with the biggest difference being that players are downed by having their flag pulled, rather than being tackled to the ground.

The sport of flag football has grown rapidly — over the last eight years 38% more children 6 to 12 years old participating in the sport. Now flag football will even be an Olympic sport, as last month the International Olympic Committee approved it for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. Two-time NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes even says he will “definitely want to” represent the United States while playing flag football.

Smith-Caggiano also makes the case that flag football is better for developing young athletes than the traditional sport.

“When you have 30 kids on a football team, only a couple of them actually ever get to touch the ball,” Smith-Caggiano said, “They’re not really developing those athletic skill-type positions.”

With smaller teams and only one lineman, it allows for a more equitable distribution of touches rather than having it be exclusive for running backs, receivers and quarterbacks.

“It gives children more of an opportunity to throw the ball or catch the ball instead of just being on the line all the time,” Smith-Caggiano said.

Smith-Caggiano’s goal is to get teams all around the county and have them compete and send the best teams to go and compete in NFL Flag tournaments which are hosted around the country.

“Some people don’t take flag serious at first, but once you play, you’re kind of hooked. Kids love it, girls are getting involved.” Smith-Caggiano said. “They’re excelling at it. It’s very exciting I think for everybody.”

Dylan McNeill can be reached at 707-441-0526.


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Travis Burnett

Travis Burnett

A pioneer in the flag football community, Travis helped co-found the Flag Football World Championship Tour, FlagSpin and USA Flag. Featuring 15+ years of content creation for the sport of flag football, creating and managing the largest flag football tournaments on the planet, coaching experience at the youth and adult level as well as an active player with National and World Championship level experience.

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