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Youngsters get ‘under the lights’ experience

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POLSON – Six teams from the inaugural Mission Valley Flag Football League took the opportunity to showcase their gridiron talents in a ten-minute scrimmage under the lights at half-time during the Polson Pirates versus Frenchtown Broncs high school football game on Friday night.

“It has been awesome to see flag football come to the valley,” said Mission Valley Flag Football League program organizer Devon Cox.

Flag football is a non-contact version of tackle football where young players develop their passing, catching and defending skills. The difference between the two versions of the game is that ball carriers are downed by pulling off a flag from a belt instead of by tackling.

“The kids, particularly the younger groups, have advanced quickly and are beginning to grasp the concepts of the game,” said Cox.

The main focus for the league, which has a little under 200 players in grades three through six on 15 different teams throughout the valley, is to impact the kids in the community by providing a fun and safe atmosphere to engage in continuous non-contact football action, while learning life lessons in dedication, teamwork, sportsmanship, discipline and confidence.

“I had a mother reach out to one of our volunteer coaches and tell them that since her child began flag football, she has seen them come completely out of their shell,” stated Cox. “That is exactly what this program is about.” 

The intention of the league, which is sponsored by the Boys and Girls Club of the Flathead Reservation and Lake County, the Warrior Movement and in part by the National Football League, is to facilitate and foster opportunities for kids and parents to build relationships and community. 

“The friendships and teamwork created on the field have also translated into friendships and confidence in the classrooms,” Cox said. “A few of the coolest moments this season have come in watching parents and adults step in to serve in their community.”

With the league’s six-game season more than halfway completed, Cox is already looking forward to next season and areas of league growth.

“There have definitely been some growing pains this season,” said Cox. “There’s always some chaos when there are 180 kids involved, but the parents have been very patient and understanding. The league has been well supported and almost all of the feedback from the parents has been good.”

Cox looks to improve the number of referees and coaches and developing a mentor program.

“This football league is set up a little different than the traditional little leagues as we try to get all the kids interacting and tied in with high school mentors and athletes,” explained Cox. “Once we get a better grasp on the logistics, I look forward to that piece of the league growing in coming years.”

Cox senses how impactful the season has been on the players by their actions. “Although sometimes they don’t express it, the excitement from the kids shows how grateful they are for these opportunities,” said Cox.

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