There are still a few yards to go until football can resume in Saskatchewan but when it does, some athletes will have a new way to get their gridiron fix.
Saskatoon Minor Football is launching a competitive flag football league for players in the under-16 and under-18 age groups, with hopes of kicking off in the spring.
“We do have a Rush female high school flag football league and now it’s just doing that male offering to really kind of join up what we do with our kindergarten through Grade 8 league and then what the Saskatoon Adult Flag Football League is doing,” SMF Executive Director Brian Guebert explained.
More than a thousand kids already play flag football at the K-8 level and the number continues to grow.
The new league will have significant crossover appeal for high school tackle football players but the non-contact element of flag football may attract some fresh blood as well.
“(It) might be a really cool opportunity to open the sport up to other people who maybe never got into tackle or never got into it early, you know — late adopters to the sport,” Guebert said.
It could also appeal to athletes from other sports who are looking for cross-training opportunities.
“I think basketball players would be excellent defenders in the game of flag football because it’s like a full-court press. You have somebody rushing the quarterback and then four more people back pressing their coverages in different zone and man concepts,” Guebert said.
Teams from the SMF league will compete for city championships in both divisions, with the opportunity to advance to provincial, regional and national championships run by Football Canada. And there’s an even bigger prize potentially off in the distance.
“Flag football is really looking like it will be in the Olympics, hopefully in 2028 when it’s in L.A., so that’s seven years away. The kids that are playing now might be our Olympians in seven years,” Guebert said.
For the time being though, the focus is on getting the league started and providing players with another outlet to enjoy the sport.
“We’re just wanting to plant that seed and just continue to foster the love and growth of this game … and offering U16 and U18 both for our males and females is just gonna be an awesome opportunity to continue to grow,” Guebert said.
Registration for the new league is already open. Should public health regulations related to COVID-19 allow it, the inaugural season will begin in late April and run for approximately two months with games taking place on Wednesdays at SMF Field.