Kids can start to get excited about running plays and scoring winning touchdowns again with the planned reopening of the Regina Youth Flag Football League.
Mike Thomas, the league’s convenor, says he is looking forward to league play starting again in the fall. It’s scheduled to begin Sept. 12.
“We have a lot of families that send us notes daily with their kids playing in their flag gear and it’s super-exciting because we know that they’ll be looking forward to getting things going with us again later this year,” Thomas said.
Despite the start of Phase 4.1 of the Re-Open Saskatchewan plan on Monday, the league will only start again in September as kids are heading back to class.
Even before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, the league had decided to push back this year’s start of play from August to September.
“We made the decision to start a little bit later to give more families time in August to spend at the lake and whatnot instead of rushing back into the city to play a sport,” Thomas explained.
“With everything that has come down, this has really kind of worked in our benefit to be able to start a little bit later.”
The league already has increased its registration numbers for the fall, with 1,000 current registrations compared to 900 at this time last year.
Thomas attributed that to less contact in flag football compared to other sports, making it a more socially distanced activity for kids.
“It does lend more opportunities for social distancing to happen for spectators and, from a contact sport-type of setting, this sport is very limited in this sense and so there’s able to be modifications to even reduce that even more,” Thomas said.
Those modifications will include fewer fields for play in order to space out games and spectators more effectively, smaller roster sizes and the implementation of sanitary procedures during games for players and personnel.
Thomas said more finite details will be available on the changes to the sport once the league receives full, up-to-date regulations and guidelines from the Saskatchewan Health Authority and Football Saskatchewan later this year.
“We’re really excited but at the same time we have to be cautious and careful about how we have all the players back in the play and also ensure everybody is safe,” Thomas said.
Parents and players in the league can expect to receive the guidelines in August, prior to the start of the season.
Thomas said there could be restrictions on the number of games teams can expect to play this season.
“It really will depend as to how we want to be able to make a day happen. We have to be conscientious of the time allotments that we have,” Thomas said.
The league is also waiting for confirmation from the University of Regina that it will be able to use the school’s facilities in the fall.
“We definitely foresee us being able to function normally, however, it’s just going to be a longer day for us than what we’re normally used to,” Thomas said.
Even with the regulations, Thomas said he thinks flag football will be one of the first sports to make a return after the COVID-19 lockdowns.
“I do see this sport being one of the first ones to be able to get things going and for the public and players in general to feel comfortable out there playing a sport after everything that we’ve gone through in the past couple months with regards to COVID-19,” he said.
“The players will have an opportunity to play which they will all be looking for, as most of them haven’t been able to play sports since March.”
Players and their families can also expect lower fees for registration to play in the league this year, although there will be a delay in ordering new equipment such as jerseys at the start of the season.
“The first week or two or maybe even three might be the white T-shirts versus the dark T-shirts just until everything can come in,” Thomas said. “We definitely are going to be working with our families … to be able to have the opportunity for people to play.”