Hastings Family YMCA is offering a revamped brand of men’s flag football that comes much closer to the real game than before.
The league is moving games outdoors, from the YMCA’s indoor tennis courts to the Hastings High School football field, and bumping up the number of players on the field for each squad from four to seven to roam a vastly larger playing field of 50-by-33 yards.
Online registration and game rules are available at hastingsymca.net. Games are played Sunday afternoons from April 2 to May 21. There will be no games on Easter Sunday, April 16. Deadline for team sign-ups is March 27.
YMCA sports director Ty LeBar said the changes being implemented were well received by students in the intramural flag football he ran at Hastings College in 2016. He hopes that same enthusiasm carries over to the men’s program as teams contemplate whether to give the new format a try.
“It’s at a different time of year than what it has been in the past — it was December-January, now it’s April-May — so we don’t know what to expect,” LeBar said. “People are hesitant to change, but really they’re not going to know if this is a good thing unless they try it. I would encourage people to be willing to change and I am optimistic the change will be a good thing in the long run.”
Games are played in two 20-minute halves and geared toward active men seeking friendly competition and exercise. Teams will be provided with flags and given the option of whether to use blockers or opt for additional receivers.
In place of kickoffs, teams will begin possession at the 45-yard line, with first down markers located at the 20-yard line. The offense is given four downs to either make a first down, score a touchdown, or surrender possession.
A single-elimination tournament will decide which team emerges as champion, with championship T-shirts awarded to the winners.
LeBar said he’s hoping for a mix of new and returning teams in the league’s inaugural season. He thinks players will appreciate the fresh air and wide open playing field once they get used to the idea of playing outdoors.
“We figure we’ll get more participation because it will be more like actual football,” he said. “Teams will enjoy playing outdoors, playing actual football rather than the modified version of it indoors. It’ll be a good change.”