Hardly anything brings kids together more than playing games as a team. And possibly nothing has brought Vallejo’s kids together more than the Coach Sarna NFL Youth Flag Football League.
Named one of the Top Five new NFL Flag Leagues in the country, Vallejo’s own flag football league has brought together over 500 kids and families from all over the city to play sports together while representing their schools.
Next step? The Oakland Coliseum.
Sarna’s league has been invited to play Sunday on the same turf as so many classic Oakland Raiders games.
“They’re gonna be looking up at this grand stadium while they’re playing there,” Sarna said. “It’s just such a cool situation for them.”
The Coach Sarna NFL Youth Flag Football League is a non-profit league that’s broken down barriers in cost affordability for all kids — boys and girls. Sixth-generation Vallejoan and middle school teacher Ryan Sarna noticed that there weren’t any affordable local flag football leagues for Vallejo’s kids. He decided to start his own affordable league and make sure that any kid who wanted to play, could.
“We kept our promise. It was low-cost so it was 65 bucks for the 10-week season and also we gave them an NFL jersey and we never turned anyone down,” said Sarna. “So far for the three seasons combined, we’ve given out 25,000 in scholarships. We’ve never turned down a kid who couldn’t afford it.”
The scholarships help kids get the right equipment to stay on their A-game. They receive the right gloves, shorts, sleeves and even the right socks. The league has made sports more accessible to those who wouldn’t or couldn’t typically play.
But affordability isn’t the only barrier the league has broken down.
“We got a super large all-girls division,” said Sarna. “We have over 70 girls in our middle school division and probably 150-200 girls playing altogether. We incorporate special needs kids a lot, too. We have them snap the ball and a designated runner runs the routes for them. So it’s like this whole dynamic of kids coming together from the school that never would have spoken before.”
Over the summer, the league was invited by the NFL to New Orleans, where they were chosen out of 700 leagues in the nation as one of the Top Five new NFL Flag Leagues in the country.
Starting with 120 kids in their first season during the fall of 2021, the league has grown to over 500 kids and counting. Sarna plans to expand the sports league into cross country this fall and disc golf and track in the spring. He even hopes to incorporate more STEM learning with Lego brick-engineering competitions.
The Coach Sarna League will take the field at the Oakland Coliseum starting at 10 a.m. and will showcase Vallejo youth in games from then until 3 p.m. There is no charge for parking at the stadium. Tickets are available to purchase for a fundraiser at callplaybook.com/coachsarnaleague.