Portsmouth Recreation Department offers flag football

Eight-week season for no-contact sport starts after Labor Day

By Jim McGaw
Posted 8/2/19

PORTSMOUTH — Have a child who’d like to play football, but doesn’t want to get knocked around or commit to four days of practice every week? The Portsmouth Recreation …

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Portsmouth Recreation Department offers flag football

Eight-week season for no-contact sport starts after Labor Day

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — Have a child who’d like to play football, but doesn’t want to get knocked around or commit to four days of practice every week? The Portsmouth Recreation Department has you covered.

The department is starting up a new flag football program for children in grades 1 through 8. Registration to play the no-contact sport will soon open, with the season running for eight weeks starting the Thursday after Labor Day, Sept. 5, at Seveney Field at Glen Farm.

“It’s been a long time since the town has sponsored sports at all,” said Kyle MacDonald, who was named coordinator of the program by Wendy Bulk, the town parks and recreation director.

Mr. MacDonald, 23, graduated in 2015 from Portsmouth High School, where he played left guard on the offensive line for the varsity football team. He graduated from Rhode Island College with a degree in English and writing and currently works for his family business, R&R Construction, and is also a part-time sportswriter at the Woonsocket Call.

When he saw a chance to start up a flag football program, he jumped at the opportunity.

“Growing up in football all my life, I still love it,” he said. “Just because you don’t want to put on pads and hit somebody, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have the opportunity to play football. This will gives kids in grades 1 to 8 a chance to experience the game of football, and just having fun.”

The sport could potentially be used as a feeder program to get more youths interested in football if they want to go on to play Pop Warner or possibly at PHS. “If they fall in love with it and want to take the next step, we’ll support them with that,” he said. 

However, although flag football can be a competitive game — “It’s on ESPN and there are national tournaments,” Mr. MacDonald pointed out — he said the new program is more about letting kids “dip their toes in the water and experience the communal atmosphere and camaraderie of sports.”

Different rules

Unlike standard football, which pits 11 players against each other on the field at one time, Portsmouth’s flag football league will be five against five. “There’s no offensive line, there’s no defensive line; it’s quarterback and receivers,” he said.

There’s no contact allowed, unless it’s incidental. “You can stand purposely somewhere, but there’s no pushing a guy downfield,” Mr MacDonald said. “The field is 70 yards and the 35-yard halfway line is the yard line to gain for a first down; then the drive can continue. The main objective is to score through the air or a run, and when your flag is pulled, you’re done.”

The league will be open to boys and girls, and teams will be coed for grades 1 to 3. (There are three divisions: Division 1 is grades 6-8, Division 2 is grades 4-5, and Division 3 is grades 1-3.)

Practices will be held on Thursday afternoons, with the games running from 2:30-5:30 p.m. on Saturdays, from September to October. Eventually, the league hopes to form all-star teams that will compete against other towns.

“We’re not there yet in the process; we’re very much in the infant stage. Depending on how registration goes, this could go to the moon, or it could be just a very fun season. It will all depend on the interest we garner,” Mr. MacDonald said.

Register online

Registration will soon be open for the eight-week season; more information can be found at www.portsmouthri.com. Children do not have to be a resident of Portsmouth to register.

The program is being run in association with the NFL Flag Football, sponsored by USA Football, he said. “Each kid is going to get an NFL jersey, which is reversible for ‘home’ and ‘away,’ a flag set, and a parent account where we put up the standings, stats and league messages. It’s going to be a good opportunity, I think,” said Mr. MacDonald, who is hoping for at least 50 registrants.

The program is a perfect fit for kids who want to learn a sport without spending all their free time in practice, he said.

“Football, and really sports in general, is such a very heavy time commitment and people don’t always have that time to give, especially if they play other sports or are involved in other activities,” Mr. MacDonald said. “We want to give people the chance to play the game of football without having to become fully invested in the realm of football, and be able to have other interests or hobbies.”

For more information about the new flag football program or other activities sponsored by the Portsmouth Recreation Department, visit www.portsmouthri.com.

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