South Philadelphia: Flag Football League Gears Up for New Season

Teams meet for a huddle at Columbus Square Park.

The Greater Philadelphia Flag Football League held its annual Skills Day over this past weekend.

This signature event is the league’s kickoff event designed to provide an introduction of the rules for rookies, to welcome rookies into the flag football community and give them an opportunity to go out on the field to showcase their skills in preparation for the upcoming team drafts.

The organization has operated at Columbus Square Park, located at 12th and Wharton streets, for the past two and a half years. Each year the group selects its teams by a draft system in the weeks following Skills Day.

“Our draft picks all of the teams,” Marketing Committee Chair Tom Bowles said. “We have 10 sets of captains that we’ll end up drafting. It’s kind of like a regular draft in the NFL. ”

Ten teams of 12 members will be selected before League games begin at the end of September. Once the season begins, the teams will play one another every Saturday through mid-November when the league will enter its championship tournament.

Despite the use of this draft system, all men and women over age 18 are encouraged to join regardless of skill level. Registration is still open and the next Skills Day will be this Saturday.

“There’s some people that never even picked up a football until they came here and then became major players in our league,” Bowles said.

“It doesn’t matter if you’ve never played flag football or any type of football in your life, or whether you played football in high school, you can come to our league and have a good time and have fun.”

For those unfamiliar with flag football it is a modified version of traditional football minus the hard contact of tackling. Instead of tackling, flags are removed from team members’ waistband and then pulled to the ground. Teams play seven against seven. Besides the non-tackling and smaller squads the rules and scoring are basically the same as tackle football–six points for a touchdown with one- and two-point conversions.

The majority of players come from Philadelphia, but some come from as far as North Jersey to get in on the action and take part in several charities the league benefits, including the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital.

Since 2009, the league has grown quite significantly in size. This season the group expects to have about 120 players.

The league also has a competitive branch called The Revolution. This is a team that participates in about three tournaments a year for which players practice separately from the main league.

“They’re the really competitive guys that want a little bit more than just a Saturday hour, hour and half of exercise,” Bowles said.

The first Revolution tournament will be at the end of September, followed by one in Florida,  one in Illinois and then at another pending location at the end of the year.

The main league, however, will end its season with its  own championship tournament ending Nov, 17. After this, the league will pick back up again in the spring, likely with many new as well as returning players.

“I grew up playing football and always had a sense of it being like an extended family community,” three-year player Jeremy Esposito said. “it was great to find people that wanted to enjoy the sport and also help out the community itself.”


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