By Jodie Nesling
The isle’s first ‘flag football’ team has started a crowdfunding campaign to provide free sessions for disadvantaged youngsters.
Phil Cartwright, who lives in Margate, thinks flag football is particularly useful to help children who are home schooled to make connections and forge friendships with their peers.
He said: “There are many socially excluded children and young people in Thanet, and the aim is to deliver sessions that are free to access – with a particular focus on those impacted by COVID-19. We want to be able to subsidise kits and share the benefits of this great sport.
Coach Phil, who runs the Thanet Mustangs team, has personally seen what a difference this sport has made to many children, including his own teenage son. He said: “Finlay has really benefited from the sessions. He has been home schooled since juniors and this is a way of socialising and creating an inclusive environment for boys and girls.
“Having trained in Thanet for three years with small 7-14-year-old mixed groups – we have a working model to illustrate all the benefits – it is inclusive, great for developing social and leadership skills as well as supporting good mental wellbeing.
Emily Chapman’s son, Max, started attending Flag Football following the easing of the most recent lockdown restrictions. She said: “He’s gained so much enjoyment already from getting exercise outdoors, with the team, for two hours a week. Max came to Flag Football knowing absolutely nothing about the sport, and found Coach Phil to be really engaging and supportive. Max has already made new friends, and looks forward to the sessions each week.”
The sessions are free of charge, making them accessible and inclusive.
Lei Kelleher added: “My daughter absolutely loves flag football, it’s the highlight of the week. She has made friends, is physically active for two hours and enjoys the coaching.
A crowdfunder was launched this month and runs until August 1. Find it, and more information, at spacehive.com/thanetmustangs-flag-football
What is Flag Football
Flag is the fastest growing format of the game not only in Great Britain, but across the world, where professional leagues such as the American Flag Football League (AFFL) and the newly established NFL Flag are starting to spring up. It is a high-octane, non-contact version of American football, where tackles are made by pulling off flags which all players wear on their hips.
The game retains the same inclusivity which makes American Football great, welcoming athletes of all abilities, genders and levels of experience. Play is based on the same principles as the contact game with offensive teams having four attempts (downs) to reach a certain point on the field with the defensive team seeking to halt their progress.