In the July edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics magazine, a study suggested one in every 30 youth football players between the ages of 5 and 14 would suffer at least one concussion per season. The traumatic brain injury crisis which first gained attention in the NFL appears to be affecting younger and younger players.
ESPN also reported Pop Warner, the nation’s largest youth football program, has seen participation drop in recent years. One factor cited was parents’ concern over injuries.
Still, football remains America’s most popular sport. To help satisfy that hunger, the NFL Flag Football League was created to allow boys and girls a chance to play a non-tackle form of the game.
Officials with the Senior Bowl have for years sponsored events to benefit the local community, such as this week’s Girls of Fall football event. Sponsoring a local youth league seemed like a natural step.
“NFL Flag is all over the country, but this will be the first league in South Alabama,” Rob Lehocky, the director of public relations for the annual all-star football game, said. “Parents really worry about the sports injuries. This gives their children a chance to play football, but with flags.”
According to its website (www.NFLflag.com), there are more than 1,000 leagues across the U.S. The national group helps local teams participate in an organized, non-contact football league while wearing NFL-sanctioned gear.
“As an organization, we want to be in alignment with the NFL when it comes to participation in youth football,” Phil Savage said.
Savage is the Senior Bowl executive director who worked in the pros as a coach, scout and executive for 20 years.
“Our league will present an alternative for parents and caregivers who want their child to play football, but are not ready to put them in full contact yet. We will focus on the fundamentals of the game in terms of skill development and will emphasize the concepts of personal character team work.”
A free skills camp is set for Saturday, Aug. 22, at the Hearin-Chandler YMCA from 8:30 to 11 a.m. Like the league, this is open to boys and girls ages 6-12. A participant doesn’t have to be signed up for the league to attend the camp.
“This will give everyone a chance to see if they like it,” Lehocky said. “If they do, then they can sign up for the league.”
League play will take place on six Mondays from 4:30 until 6:30 p.m., starting Sept. 21 and finishing Oct. 26. Teams will plays 10 games.
Registration for the league is $25. Players will get an NFL team-branded jersey, NFL Flag football belt, joint parent-player membership to USA Football and player’s insurance coverage.
NFL Flag is also part of the NFL Play 60 campaign, which promotes youth health and fitness. The idea is to get children to be active for at least 60 minutes a day.
“It is always fun to work with these kids,” Lehocky said. “Once they finish here, they can decide if they want to continue into tackle football. They learn a lot of the same skills, such as playing on a team, plus running and throwing the ball.”
To register for the free clinic or league play, visit the www.SeniorBowl.com website and click on the “community” section.
Shelton wins another trophy
Robby Shelton of Wilmer continues to add to his impressive golf résumé. He recently turned in an 11-under-par effort in stroke play to earn medalist honors at the 113th Western Amateur in Sugar Grove, Illinois.
Shelton, who is starting his junior year at the University of Alabama, turned in a final round of 5-under 67, which included five birdies and an eagle.
“I got off to a hot start this afternoon, had the putter rolling on the first four [holes]; it went cold for awhile but seemed to kick in again on 11 and 12,” Shelton told the media. “I didn’t have many putts outside 12 to 15 feet all day. If you hit the fairways on this course, it’s really get-able.”
This follows an impressive run at the Barbasol Championship. He tied for third place in the PGA Tour event, which was played at the Grand National on the Robert Trent Jones Trail course in Auburn.
Locals remain in ARCA chase
When the ARCA Racing Series returns to action, two area drivers will be in the hunt for the overall championship. At this point, Grant Enfinger of Fairhope is first with 3,805 points and Thomas Praytor is eighth with 2,915 points.
Enfinger increased his lead after winning the Federated Auto Parts 200 on Aug. 8 in Marne, Michigan. It was his fourth checkered flag of the season.
“I feel like we had the best car out there, bar none,” Enfinger, who led all but two laps, said. “It didn’t matter if it was a short run or long run. When we needed to save tires the car would still go fast. I didn’t feel like I was abusing it that bad. You always fall off here. You are always sliding, but we slid less than everybody else.”
Enfinger has a 225-point lead over Austin Wayne Self, with five races remaining. He and Praytor return to action Sunday at 1:30 p.m. for the Super Chevy Stores.com-Allen Crowe 100 in Springfield, Illinois.
Jaguars ready for hoop action
The University of South Alabama men’s basketball team will face Belmont in the first game of the Legends Classic subregional on Nov. 23. Kennesaw State, the host team, plays Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis in the other semifinal.
The championship and consolation games will follow the next day. Belmont has won at least 26 games the last four seasons and reached the NCAA tournament seven times since 2006.
In other news, the Jaguars’ game at North Carolina State on Nov. 15 will be broadcast on ESPNU. For more information, visit www.usajaguars.com or call 251-461-1USA (1872).