By Brett Milam
Parents with kids who need activity: Take solace, Bethel has a new youth sports league coming.
Community Christian Church in Bethel has started a youth flag football league called Bethel 3C Sports League. About nine months in the making, the league wasn’t a response to the sports gap brought upon by COVID-19, but it’s ready to fill it.
Dan Asche, senior minister, and Chris Halcomb, who is volunteering to head up the league, started the league for a number of reasons: to give kids a chance to have fun with low risk of head injury, play with friends, teach fundamentals, and do it in such a way as to fit neatly around family time. In addition, this would be a faith-based activity to meld sports with faith.
Halcomb said the idea germinated while on the back deck at a birthday party nine months ago. One of the elders from church casually mentioned the idea, and from there it took off. Instead of trying to find a league for the boys to play in, they could just do it themselves. He has two primary age boys that are active in sports.
He took the idea to Asche and the church, and from there it was a matter of researching and planning to get it off the ground.
The community network of churches also helped. Outlook Christian Church in Indiana, which has done a league such as this, was insightful as well in how they ran their league, Halcomb said.
It also helped that Asche was a pastor at that church for 17 years, and had experience with the sports league that overall had 800 kids involved between basketball, indoor soccer and flag football.
Asche said his takeaway from that experience was that you need a core of committed people to help get a league like this off the ground, who all recognize that it’s for the kids.
“I think one of the biggest insights is that the modern family is stressed for time, and so, flag football works wonderfully in that the kids come and they practice one hour a week during a week night and then they play a game on Saturday, and that’s basically it,” he said.
Halcomb said that it’s about trying to find that balance between school work, studying, church life, and it can be difficult.
“If we can manage that time, and manage that financial commitment, I think we can provide something that would be very beneficial to the families around here,” he said.
Asche explained how the merging with faith would work based on how it was done in Indiana. Each kid would receive a New Testament geared toward the sport in some fashion, and there would be half-time devotions led by the coaches.
The kids would also be invited and recognized at the worship services at the church.
In other words, it’s about coaching not only to the actual activity, but to life and Christian principles.
Also, the rules of the game itself are simple and “able to fit on a page,” Halcomb said. Anyone of any skill set or no prior experience can play.
For the first year, Halcomb said they will keep the league limited, as they get up and running. A team would consist of six to eight kids, and one to two coaches per team for three different age groups pre-K to sixth grade. Overall, each age group would have about four teams.
Of course, all of that depends on where the demand is at and how the age groups break down.
Flag football is flexible in that regard, Halcomb said, where match-ups could be four-on-four or five-on-five or six-on-six.
There’s also flexibility with putting kids with other kids they know from the same school or church.
Halcomb said they would be score-keeping, and there would be medals of some sort at the end.
“It’s not really like a trophy; I tend to think of it as more of something to remember the league by, and the things that you’ve learned and the people you’ve met kinda thing,” he said.
The hope is to have practices and games begin during the second week of August.
While the pandemic has slowed down registration and affected how they planned to advertise – through the schools – Halcomb remains optimistic. That hope is grounded in a demand for localized, low-cost sports, and to get kids out of the house.
The start of registration was pushed back from the original slot of May 1 to now June 1.
Registration is $75, and all inclusive, meaning everything a kid needs to play will be provided, including jersey, mouthguard and flags. Cleats are optional. No game day admissions. Halcomb also noted there’s less travel involved since it’s local.
To keep it clean and safe, smaller teams, having hand sanitizer available, and disinfecting balls between games will be other ways they try to stay on top of the COVID-19 guidelines and best practices.
Halcomb and Asche see the start of the flag football league as but one step in a grander vision to have a multi-purpose building on the church grounds with indoor soccer, basketball, cheerleading, and volleyball.
All of which is geared towards kids and families, Asche said.