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New youth football league promotes safety and development

Published: Feb. 7, 2021 at 11:29 PM CST
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Youth football in central Texas will look different moving forward, as local leagues introduce “flex football”.

The Midway Premier League is teaming up with Gridiron to have a play style that bridges the gap between flag football and tackle football.

Midway Premier executive director, Paul Deleon, explains, “What it entailed was putting padded shoulder pads on and padded helmets to institute more of elements of tackle football.”

Right now, the athletes in the league are playing flag football, but in a few weeks, they will strap on the specialty pads to play in a limited-contact environment that more closely resembles the real game.

Deleon says, “Tackle football is great and everything. My son plays tackle football, but he wasn’t ready for tackle football until he went through all this process first.”

Warren Bradley, whose son plays with Deleon’s, adds, “This gives them that opportunity to learn those fundamentals before you have somebody coming after you, full pads, full speed, ready to put a big hit on you.”

In turn, the quality of play at the Jr. High and High School levels will only get better.

The games will certainly look different without full-speed tackling, but where some people may think it’s taking away from the sport, others say it is enhancing it.

Bradley says, “I feel like it’s keeping the same game we love because if we kept going the way we were going with young kids, full pads, big hits, we run the risk of a lot of injuries.”

It may take some time to get used to, especially for parents who grew up playing in a different, more violent era of the sport.

Bradley, a former linebacker, says, “It’s difficult for me, just because of my personality and who I am, but it’s best for the kids.”

In the end, the new flex rules will benefit the parents as well, bringing them peace of mind.

“Anytime you can add any safety precautions like padded helmets, padded shoulder pads, it’s definitely going to help a mom or dad say, ‘okay, even though it’s physical, they are protected,” says Deleon.

The new flex league with Gridiron will start in March, or athletes can wait until the traditional Fall season to play... but, who are we kidding?

“It’s Texas, everyone wants to play football, whenever they can,” exclaims Deleon.

Flex Football will be available for three age groups: 8U, 10U, and 12U.

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