While baseball is still traditionally thought of as America's pastime, football continues to be massively popular among all audiences. In fact, according to The Harris Poll, 33 percent of sports fans in America selected professional football as their favorite sport in 2015. For context, the next closest selection was baseball with 15 percent.
That national attention has certainly translated to interest in youth football. As kids tune in to watch professional or collegiate games, they take what they see from their favorite players and teams and mimic their actions in schoolyards, backyards and on fields of their own. Whether it's throwing a ball like Aaron Rodgers, making an incredible one-handed catch like Odell Beckham Jr., or celebrating a touchdown like Cam Newton, kids are becoming more and more interested in playing football.
However, there is an understandable hesitation from some parents regarding the potential negative effects high contact sports have on young athletes. As a result, some parents have sought out alternatives to tackle football, such as flag football.
Flag football, which has become increasingly popular as a result of a partnership between the NFL's Play 60 campaign and USA Football, is a safer way to hone football skills in an environment that remains both fun and competitive. Whether it's with a group of friends, family members or teammates, flag football can be a great way to learn how to play the sport without the concerns that come with consistent contact.
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With that in mind, here are five low contact flag football drills that will help young athletes understand and develop their football skills.
Flag Tag simplifies flag football down to two of its core elements: pulling flags and working to prevent others from pulling your flags. There is no football necessary for this game, simply have each player put on their flag belt and set up some boundaries.
Once the game begins, have players try to pull each other's flags while trying not to let their flags get pulled. Once both of a player's flags have been pulled, they are eliminated from the game and stand outside the grid. The game ends when one player remains with at least one flag intact.
Coaching Tip: Try to move to space and use your speed as much as you can. It's difficult to pull the flags of a person that is moving fast and being unpredictable. Defensively, try to stay balanced and use two hands to pull flags.
This game will continue to work on defensive skills and also introduce running skills. Set up boundaries and have one player with a football stand in the middle of the grid. Have the rest of the players make a single file line on the edge of the grid to initially serve as defenders.
The game begins when the coach sends a single defender into the grid to try to pull the ball carrier's flag and also begins to count to five. If the coach gets to five and the ball carrier still has both flags, then a second defender is sent in to help the first defender. If the coach reaches a second count of five, then a third defender is sent into the grid. This pattern continues until the ball carrier has one of their flags pulled. After that happens, the game resets and the coach selects a new ball carrier.
Coaching Tip: Speed and space remain areas of focus as a ball carrier. Try to avoid backpedalling or using too many dekes or moves in a confined space. The players that can effectively draw a high number of defenders into the grid will effectively and consistently attack the most spacious areas on the field.
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