Mary McMullen, normally the town’s trails and outdoor recreation coordinator, spent last week pounding the pavement to local elementary schools and Rim Country Middle School making a last pitch for youths between the ages of 6 and 14 to sign up for the upcoming NFL Youth Flag Football League.
Normally recruiting is not one of McMullen’s duties, but she’s been filling in for former sports coordinator Joseph Harris since he resigned in mid-June to accept a similar position in Los Alamos, N.M.
A new sports coordinator is expected to be hired soon.
Until then, McMullen will continue to coordinate the flag football league that last season drew 120-plus young athletes and became one of the town’s most popular sports offerings.
Registration for the league closes Aug. 9 and the fee is $35 per child.
On the sidelines during 2009 games, some jokingly referred to the league as “football for moms” which most likely meant young athletes wanted to play the sport but their mothers didn’t want to see them banged, squashed, bent and bruised as sometimes happens in tackle football.
Now, flag football is the popular sport among doting mothers. It is also a rapidly growing recreational sport because it is cheaper, players don’t need pounds and pounds of protective equipment and children can participate regardless of their size.
Since football has long been a big part of the culture of Payson, flag football is a chance for parents and children to be involved in the sport without worry of serious injuries.
The non-contact flag football program, which was founded in the fall of 2004 by former P&R director Bill Schwind, is part of a nationwide league that was launched in 1996.
When starting the program in Payson, Schwind touted it as one that would educate young people about football while emphasizing participation and sportsmanship.
The highlight of participation is the regional flag tournament, which will be held in the fall at the University of Phoenix Stadium, the home of the Arizona Cardinals, in Glendale.
But before thoughts of regional play can be entertained, there’s the Payson league that begins play Aug. 30.
Games will be played Monday through Thursday evenings on Rumsey I. Each of the 10 teams in the league will play about two games each week. Although many NFL flag programs play in 5-on-5 formats, Payson games are played 6-on-6.
“That’s the only difference (between Payson and other programs),” said Harris at the onset of last season.
In the games, the offensive teams play for first downs at midfield and a touchdown in the end zone. Running and passing plays are allowed although there are “no running zones” at midfield and near each end zone.
For the upcoming league, players will be placed in one of two age divisions: 6 to 8 years and 9 to 13 years. The Payson teams will all be named after an NFL franchise and wear those logos and colors. Players also receive NFL jerseys.