The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

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How do you teach the game of football to kindergartners and first graders?

Very patiently, says Northwest Ohio Fellowship of Christian Athletes Campus Director Matt Medina.

“If you’ve been around my baseball teams, you know that we always teach everything the exact same way. From whatever grade to the time they get into college, you always want to keep it the same way,” Medina said. “The difference is in how it is structured and how they are playing the game. Of course, when they play flag football they are still playing football.”

The FCA and Maumee Bay Turf Center are teaming up to form an NFL Flag football league for kindergartners and first graders. Sign-ups will continue through August to see how much interest is there.

“I, personally, want to see what the interest is. We’re not interested in taking away from the soccer programs. When soccer is coming to an end is probably when the flag football is going to get going, so we don’t take anything away from the soccer,” Medina said.

Medina was involved in a flag football program at Eastern Community YMCA last year, and now he’s taking on the challenge of organizing a league to be played at fields provided by Maumee Bay Turf in Oregon. The league is primarily for youth from Oregon, Genoa, Lake Township, and East Toledo.

Medina says when the players are this young they are not the only ones who get an education.

“It is basically teaching patience to the coach. When you’re teaching the kindergartners and first graders you have to understand that you are working with little guys and they don’t understand what we are talking about,” Medina said.

“They are playing for fun, so there is lots of time when the kid is teaching the adult to have patience. That takes a little bit of learning. It’s not a lot — just teaching patience to coaches and getting them to understand that there is more to this game. Now, it’s about teaching the kids the fundamentals of the game rather than, ‘Now, you’ve got to win the game,’” he continued.

Teaching plays and blocking is different, too.

“We’ve taught them everything from the end around to hand-off plays to learning how to run a hook pattern. We don’t tell them, ‘Hey, you are going to run an out-and-up, you’re going to run a little pass play, (instead) you’re going to run a red route, or a green route, which would be a fly (pattern), or something like that, and we basically teach them that way — we teach them by colors,” Medina said.

“Also, when you are coloring somebody, they are going to have wrist bands on, so that ‘this is the guy that you are blocking.’ Each guy is going to have the same color-coded wrist band, ‘so this is the person that you are covering or you are blocking,’ and the only time they can get away from that is if they are after somebody who is trying to grab their flag.”

Even the football and the playing conditions are different.

“We will play on half of a field, so we can get more games in during less time,” Medina said. “The football is actually a pee-wee sized football. My son is small and he can pass it. He can throw it like 10 yards.

“We don’t have all the details yet. We’re just trying to see if there is interest. It will be timed, and we’ll probably play 10-minute games with a continuous clock and we’ll give them a five-minute half time where they can get a drink and come back.”

As the sanctioning organization, the NFL helps out. Like any other sport, parents will pay much of the bill.

“The NFL does an NFL Flag football, and they basically give you the NFL logo, they help you to get jerseys at a discount, they help you get footballs, and they help you get flags,” Medina said.

“A lot of it is self-provided. You are going to pay for your own way to play and for your insurance and everything like that. It is a 12-week process to get everything going, so right now we’re trying to see what the interest is in the coaches.

“I think we have 12 to 13 kids just from their coaches, but our goal is to have 40 kids so we can have a different number of teams. If we have more than 40 kids, we can have several teams, but I’d like to break it up so we have six kids on a team.

“We want everybody to have a lot of playing time so that everybody gets to touch the ball. That’s the whole thing — it has to be fun, first of all. The biggest thing to this game a lot of people don’t understand is that the kids aren’t quarterbacking. The coach is the quarterback, and he is basically the guy that helps guide this guy — ‘Hey, make sure you are tackling this guy. This is your play; you are going to hand off to this guy.’ That’s the whole game. The coaches get to participate and play along with the kids and it’s pretty much hands-on.

“We are also looking for coaches who love the game of football and that are interested in teaching and coaching football the right way,” Medina said.

Medina believes teaching youth about the game of football has a long way to go in Northwest Ohio. He says the format and teaching methods are inconsistent within various communities, which leads to a different end result at the varsity level.

“It’s just a brand of teaching. Some parents want their kids to play tackle football at the third grade, some of the parents want them to play a little bit more flag football yet,” Medina said.

“It gives those kids who may not play football later in life, the chance to say, ‘Is this for me or not?’ The biggest thing is that in our area, flag football is weak actually. Everywhere else, people have been playing flag football for years. Some high school coaches want their kids to play flag football until they get into middle school, because it doesn’t discourage those kids from wanting to play.”

Call Medina at 567-249-4039 or e-mail mmedina@fca.org.

 

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