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Castleberry Fairs

Flag football league continues growth in Lakes Region


by Jeff Lajoie
Sports Reporter

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The action was fierce at Inter-Lakes High School as the men’s league of the Lakes Region Flag Football League competed with postseason play looming Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
August 13, 2012
MEREDITH – It's a Monday night in Meredith and the turf field at Inter-Lakes High School is alive with energy. With the summer months in full swing, the 12 teams in the men's division of the Lakes Region Flag Football League are busy preparing for the stretch run of the season, with playoffs and the Super Bowl just around the corner on this warm and muggy July evening.

Three fields are set up on the I-L turf, all going sideline to sideline with plenty of room to maneuver for the 6-on-6 format. LRFFL organizer Bob Giroux comes over to say hello during halftime of the game he's officiating, as everyone on the field is busy in some capacity for this league that holds games just once a week in the summer months.

"We're coming up on our third season," explained Giroux, as the fall of 2010 marked the creation of the league. "I was involved with youth sports coaching basketball and baseball with my kids but my passion always has been football. I started following flag football around the country and I knew it was getting popular. There was a league in Pelham, they've got about 500 kids strong, so I contacted them and asked how they got going. They do the same thing that we do, draw from about five or six towns."

And thus, the league was born for youths in the Lakes Region. That first fall season saw about 75 kids take part, with that number growing to 100 for the spring of 2011 season. Last fall saw another expansion, with 140 youths playing and this spring was even bigger with over 200 on board. Those 200 players consisted of 27 teams in four age divisions, with one practice night a week and games on the weekends.

"It's very parent friendly, very player friendly," said Giroux of the league. "And the kids just love it. It's very fundamental football, very sound football. Everyone is eligible to catch a pass so that makes it fun for the kids as well."

The league draws from all over the Lakes Region, with a team from as far as Franklin coming up for the adult men's league this summer. Giroux also had two players from Wolfeboro during the youth session.

"I knew Meredith wouldn't be enough to draw from so we made contacts with Gilford, Moultonboro, other towns where I knew people through coaching," Giroux explained. "The men's league can draw a little further but for the kids, Meredith/Moultonboro is still our main core. Gilford has grown…Laconia, Belmont. But really anybody that wants to make the trip, we don't turn people away. It's really not too big of a commitment with one night a week for practice and one day a week for games."

One big draw for the league is that it's an NFL program, meaning the youth teams get NFL jerseys that they're able to keep after the season comes to an end. The league's insurance also goes through the NFL, and there are uniform rules throughout the sport that the LRFFL follows as well.

"For a youth, if you don't know the sport of football and you're playing tackle for the first time and you're so concerned about looking over your shoulder, it can be tough," said Giroux. "So we think it's a nice product because the kids can learn the sport first without the helmets and pads. It's a very fast-paced game and you kind of get to see if you like it early on. One thing that really takes off over the season is the confidence these kids get from playing. And the girls do awesome at this sport. They've got great hand-eye coordination and they're awesome flag pullers."

While the youth leagues are still the bread and butter, the men's league began play last summer with four official teams. The league grew to 12 for this summer, with about eight or nine players on each squad. A women's league also grew during the spring.

"The response has been incredible," admitted Giroux.

Where will the league go from here? That's the big question, as Giroux hopes the expansion will continue due to the immediate success. He hopes to add a 15-17 year old division in the spring of 2013 for his youth league, as the cutoff currently ends at 15 years of age. He also hopes to implement a youth league next summer, with players from the Lakes Region taking part as well as kids spending their summer on vacation.

"We're hoping to make this more of a feeder program as well," he explained. "I've talked to some of the high school coaches in the area to help us develop some practice programs. So when you get these kids that want to move on to tackle football, you've got them three-quarters of the way trained and ready to go."

Registration for the fall youth leagues will continue through Sept. 5, with signups taking place completely online at the league's Web site www.lrffl.com.

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