The new Regina Sports Performance Centre is allowing the Regina Youth NFL Flag Football League to move indoors this winter for the first time in its 13-year history. With the success of its outdoor leagues, the league is expanding inside.
The league will run from Nov. 28 to Feb. 27, with games taking place every Saturday, for boys and girls ages six to nine. Sign-up for the winter football season commences Oct. 1 and is on a first-come, first-served basis. The normal spring and fall leagues have teams for six-17-year old’s and this year’s fall league saw close to 1100 players sign up but limited turf options in the city means the league could only accommodate two age groups for the winter months.
Mike Thomas, the league’s convenor was able to find turf at the new Regina Sports Performance Centre.
“It’s a brand-new facility, and we will be the first community user group to run a program in the facility,” said Thomas.
Thomas said the youth sports league has been looking at a winter program for a few years now.
“We have always wanted to have a winter program,” said Thomas. “But there hasn’t been an opportunity with the Regina soccer facilities. The opportunity came up when the developer of the new facility asked if we would be interested, and we took it. We finally have a facility to play in.”
A winter football league allows kids another option for sport during the winter months.
“Not every kid is a hockey kid, or soccer kid, or basketball kid and now more so than ever there is that need,” said Thomas.
Thomas said allowing kids to play football in the winter months as well as summer allows new kids to learn the sport, but also for kids who love the sport to play a little bit more.
Former CFL and NFL player Belton Johnson, who started playing football at five years old, is now a coach for the flag football league. Johnson, who has played football at every level, is using his knowledge to help his young players be the best they can be. Johnson said having football available in the winter just adds to the relationships kids can build.
“Flag football and sports in general is needed,” said Johnson. “It builds character, teamwork. Coaching flag football, I’ve noticed all the walks of life kids.
“I’ve told my kids it’s ok to be friends with different people. Teams bring people together, and to have something like that all year round, who wouldn’t want that?”
Johnson said he works his team hard and they respond.
“I don’t sugar-coat anything,” said Johnson. “I yell and scream, but it’s to get their attention. The parents enjoy me pushing their kids. Hard work is the only way you can achieve things”
While the winter months can be challenging for many kids, the opportunity for flag football will hopefully provide some much-needed exercise and a release for children.
Thomas says the league is more than excited to finally have the program up and running. “We have always wanted to do it, and there are children looking to play,” said Thomas. “We are excited to see where this is going to take us”.