Flag Football as an Olympic Sport: The Case
The Olympics are unlike any other sport competition on the planet. Over 300 events from 35 sports, representing every country on Earth, compete for the medals. I’ve been looking forward to the Summer Olympics since I was a child. There’s always been something missing. Flag football is one of the most popular American sports and a top-10 sport around the globe. However, there are still obstacles that need to be overcome before it can become an Olympic sport. We’ll first discuss the reasons American Football has not been included in the Olympics. Next, we will explain why flag football is the best option and the right choice for a future Olympic sport.
WHY IS AMERICAN FOOTBALL NOT AN OLYMPIC SPORT?
NFL.com reports that the greatest logistical challenges facing American Football’s inclusion in the Olympics is very similar to Rugby. Due to the large number of participants in each sport, there are “gender equality” formats that allow both men and women to participate in all sports. This is also compared to the 3 week schedules for rugby and football. American Football’s high barrier to entry, along with the cost of equipping all players with pads, gear and other equipment, has made it difficult to implement in many countries, particularly those that are less wealthy.
It’s difficult to imagine how either of these sports would make a good choice for the Summer Olympics. Rugby is similar to Soccer in that you don’t need much gear or practice at the base level. It also has a larger international fanbase. Rugby was recently cleared to compete in the Olympics beginning in 2016. The traditional style of Rugby has been changed to a “sevens” format that is more fast-paced and with fewer people. This could be a pathway for American Football or flag football.
TACKLE SAFETY CONCERNS
Pro teams, high school and college, are reducing contact practice. However, they still wear soft-padded headgear and shoulder protectors for protection. What if we could reduce the amount of contact that players have before middle school? And also address some of the concerns about the sport’s acceptance into the Olympics? There has been a lot of discussion recently around the safety and security of tackle football. This is not only in the NFL, where concussions are a concern. Recent evidence supports the notion that repeated head impacts and collisions can cause similar brain injuries later in life, even if there is no concussion. This applies to children aged 8-13. Research suggests that children shouldn’t play football. This is because their heads are larger than adults and their necks are weaker than those of adults. Children may be more at risk for brain and head injuries than adults.
DREW BREES BELIEVES FLAG FOOTBALL IS A WAY TO SAVE FOOTBALL
Studies show that flag football has outperformed traditional tackle football in youth sports growth since 2015. Numerous high schools have made the switch from tackle football to flag football, and other schools in their region are following suit by creating organized leagues or divisions. Flag football is an official varsity sport in many states. It’s especially popular with women, as flag football allows for easier participation than tackle. Drew Brees, who was recently interviewed by Peter King on NBC’s pregame program, had strong words to share about why he believes that flag football is the solution. Brees stated that flag football could save football. Brees is the coach of his son’s flag-football team. He played flag football through junior high and never played tackle football until highschool. Brees stated that flag football is an excellent way to introduce kids to football. “It’s easy to have a bad experience and not want to play again. There are so many elements to the game once the pads are on, and the coach is in control of many cases. To be honest, I don’t believe enough coaches are knowledgeable enough about the fundamentals of the game, especially for youth players. Similar sentiments have been expressed by many other coaches and pro athletes, who praise flag football’s popularity.
Flag football is not a novelty or a tool for recreational development that feeds into tackle soccer. It’s a fully-fledged sport that has its own identity and purpose.
Flag football is also growing in popularity internationally, faster than traditional American football. Traditional American football has a higher barrier to entry due to the requirement for full pads and equipment. Flag football, which is popular in Mexico, is fast becoming the second most popular sport after soccer. There are an estimated 2.5 million children playing flag football at elementary school level. With representation from Canada, Panama, Indonesia and the Bahamas, as well as Canada, international teams are making the trip to the most popular American flag soccer tournaments.
Flag football participation is growing everywhere you look.
It was an unprecedented year for flag football at the adult level. There are many new major tournaments popping up all over the globe, with thousands of teams competing in every age group, format, and style. The cash prizes are at an all-time high and will surpass $100,000 in team giveaways within the next calendar year. Sponsors are starting to notice, with major brands like EA Sports and Nerf seeing flag football’s value as a means of effectively reaching large audiences. The popularity of flag football among youth is reflected in the high participation rate of women. It is also the preferred format for American football play in most Central and South American countries.
How does all this tie back to the Olympics, and American football being recognized as an official sport? Let’s first look at the history of American football with the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
You must have an International Federation, and have participated in a World Championship competition, to be eligible to participate in the Olympic games as a demonstration sports. It must have been held at least 6 years prior to a scheduled Olympic Games. The International Federation of American Football, which focuses mainly on tackle football, but also includes flag in its tournament lineup, met the standard in 2012. Provisional recognition was granted in 2014. This could allow American football to become an official sport. Flag football could be added as a possible discipline. However, the IFAF has faced many challenges.