Sports: Touchdown Adult Flag Football

It can be hard to stay involved in team sports when you’re too old for Little League, high school is over, and adult responsibilities conflict with grueling practice and game schedules. But team sports don’t have to end when life gets busy; that’s the goal of the Edmond YMCA’s adult flag football league.

“Anyone can get out there and play. If you do have some prior experience, you may excel a little more, but someone who’s never touched a football, after a couple plays will be right there with the other guy,” says Norris Williams, captain of the Regulators. The 12-man team from Edmond went undefeated in last year’s spring league, and made it all the way to the final game in the fall league.

“Not everybody’s an all-star out there. It’s all levels,” says Chris Berry, Edmond YMCA sports director. “Our whole reason for doing this league is to give adults the opportunity to participate in a
team sport.”

“I’m getting a little bit older now, (flag football) is not as much wear and tear,” team member Sean Harman says. “It’s fun to get out there and compete with some younger and older guys, and show that you still have some skill.”

“A lot of us played in high school and it’s something we can get together to do and compete again and stay active,” explains team member Ryan Shoecraft. He says the best part of being a Regulator is competing, hanging out with friends and hopefully winning a championship.

Team member Ben Purkeypile says most of the Regulators have played team sports all their lives and the flag football league is a way to continue the experience. “When you get away from it, it’s almost like you’re lost,” he says. “You’re back down to ground level and haven’t been there for 20 years. You just miss it. You have to get back into it.”

The YMCA has offered flag football since fall 2007. The fall league, which runs from September to November, has 25 teams and the spring league, which runs from March to May, has had up to 18 teams. Some teams travel from as far away as Lawton or Stillwater. When possible, teams are split into skill levels. Players must be at least 18 years old and teams can have 8 to 16 players. “We set the maximum so that everybody gets a chance to play and nobody has to sit out a lot,” Berry says.

Games are held on Sunday afternoons, and there are seven games per season, plus a single-elimination playoff, and every team automatically makes the playoffs. “Playing in a win-or-go-home situation is a really fulfilling experience,” Purkeypile says.

Games are played outside with 20-minute halves. The field is broken into four, 20-yard sections, and teams have four plays to move one section. The field is 40 yards across.

Flags hang from “sonic boom” belts that make a popping noise when a flag has been pulled. Unsportsmanlike conduct like playing too rough, foul language and profane hand gestures are forbidden. “It is non-contact, but there’s still guys bumping into each other and we try to keep the physicality to a minimum,” Berry says.

“It’s good to get out there and compete and just have some fun with your friends,” Williams, a University of Central Oklahoma student, says.

“It gets people active again,” Berry says. “It gives them something to do other than go home on a Sunday and sit around.” He says game times don’t conflict with morning church services and the games are done in time for evening church or family activities.

Practice isn’t a huge time commitment. The Regulators usually practice about four or five times a season. “One year, we didn’t even have practice,” Williams explains. “If we can get everybody out there, we will. If we can’t, it’s no big deal.”

“It’s all about just getting out there and having fun and being active,” Berry says.

Those interested can register at the Edmond YMCA or at www.ymcaokc.org. The next league will start in September. The YMCA also offers adult volleyball and will offer adult soccer again if interest warrants it. A women’s flag football league existed in the past and the YMCA will offer it again if there’s enough interest. There must be at least four women’s teams for the league to be reinstated.

For flag football, team fees are $350, or an individual feel of $35 for YMCA members and $55 for nonmembers. Financial assistance is available and additional costs are minimum. “Really, all you need is cleats,” Purkeypile says. “Everyone should already have gym shorts and a T-shirt. I didn’t have to purchase anything.”

“Prior experience definitely isn’t needed.” Williams says. “It’s always fun to get out there with friends and throw the football around.” Whether it’s friendly competition or an effort to achieve a new personal best, flag football at the YMCA gives those who put away their cleats too early a chance to again experience the camaraderie and athletic challenge of team sports.

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