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 PORTION? According to an article published by NFL.com, the greatest logistical challenges facing American Football’s inclusion in the Olympics are very similar with that of 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 a shorter schedule than what would be possible with a more physically demanding game such as rugby or football. American Football’s high barrier to entry, and the cost of equipping all players with pads, gear and other equipment, has made it difficult to adapt 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 casino sbobet 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 is especially popular with women, as it allows for easier participation than the physical nature of 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. International teams are starting to make the trip to some of the more popular American flag football tournaments, with representation from Panama, Indonesia, Bahamas, Mexico, Canada and more a common occurrence.
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 primarily on tackle football, but also includes flag in its tournament lineup, met the standard. It was approved in 2012 and received provisional recognition in 2014. This could open the door for American football to become an official sport. However, the IFAF has faced setbacks from alleged corruption, mismanagement of events and misappropriation funds, which have hampered the sport’s inclusion in the short-term. In 2007, the IOC adopted a more flexible rule that allows programs to be reviewed after each Olympics in 2020. This opens up the possibility for any sport to present their case to be included.
The opportunity exists for American football to participate in the most prestigious sporting event in the world. But how can we overcome the challenges presented by the sport’s structure to make it fit the mold of an Olympic sporting event?
FLAG FOOTBALL IS THE OLYMPIC KEY TO OLYMPIC INLUSION
Flag football is the perfect choice for tackle football. These are the top four reasons flag football should be considered for inclusion as an Olympic sport.
1. It’s less physically demanding than tackle football
Flag football is safer than tackle football, as we have seen. Flag football has a history of success and is being praised for its ability to preserve the game for future generations. Safety is only one aspect of the physical demands that the Summer Olympic Games present. You have less than three weeks to accommodate all levels of competition and the year-round activities required to qualify and practice. Imagine playing 6-7 full contact football games with a small roster in a matter of 16 days. Not to mention any other qualifying events. It’s not unusual for flag football to play as many as 6-7 games in one weekend, or even a single day. This is a tournament-friendly sport.
2. International Flag Football Interest Is Exploding
This is an important factor in determining whether a sport should be considered. While traditional American tackle football is very popular around the world, flag football is more appealing to more countries. Flag football has a lower barrier of entry in terms of equipment and cost, doesn’t require full-length and striped fields, and it is easier to host larger tournaments and leagues to stimulate local interest.
3. It requires fewer participants
Flag football is far more challenging than traditional tackle football, depending on the format used (our guess would be either 5v5 and 7v7). Flag football is less physically demanding and requires fewer substitutions. Another reason is that it requires fewer specialist players such as punters, kickers, special teams, offensive linesman, and punters. Flag football, which would have 50+ competitors on a traditional tackle football team, would only require 15 players. This would reduce that number to less then a third. This is because the Olympics limit their number of participants to 10,500 athletes. This allows for more countries to compete, particularly poorer ones, which makes it more practical to field a smaller, less expensive team, in addition to the above reasons.
4. It’s not just a men’s sport
The IOC places a lot of emphasis on gender equality. In 2012, all categories of sports had women competing in them. Any new sport added to the Olympic Games must now include male and female athletes. There is not enough interest in tackle football from women to make it worthwhile. There are some female players and some female-only tackle football leagues, but it doesn’t fit the bill, especially considering the physical barriers and physical limitations. This is not an issue for flag football, as international participation is booming.
FLAG FOOTBALL & OLYMPIC INCLUSION – NEXT STEPS
How can we continue to harness the momentum of flag football into the next Olympic games? Although the IFAF has helped to get American Football to the IOC in recent decades, there are still many issues with the organization and no movement since 2014. We do know that flag football has been taken seriously at all levels, with major organisations making efforts to expand their involvement in the space of flag football and creating more international events to support the sport. Flag football will be included in the Olympics in some capacity in the next 10-20 year, either as an individual sport or as a part of tackle football.