Tackle football is out, flag is in

Tina Harbuck
More than 30 youth participated in a flag football camp during the summer. Pictured here, Logan Smith tries to evade Ethan Thomas during a scrimmage. [TINA HARBUCK/THE LOG]

For the second year in a row, Destin youth have said no to tackle football.

However, they are saying yes to flag football.

“We just didn’t have enough … we only had about six or seven people come in with an interest for it,” said Bryan Kellar, recreation supervisor for the city of Destin.

For years, Destin fielded multiple tackle football teams in the various divisions from Boomers to Seniors, but last year and even before 2018, interest started to dwindle.

In the 2017, Destin fielded three teams — one Senior team of 11- to 12-year-olds; one Junior, ages 9-10; and one Peewee team, ages 7-8.

In 2016, Destin had only two teams, Juniors and Peewees with less than 50 youth total.

As for the youth tackle football program in neighboring South Walton, the Seahawks are fielding four teams this year, one in each age group, for a total of more than 100 players.

In Destin, however, the interest has shifted to youth flag football.

“Right now we have about a 100 kids signed up,” Kellar said.

The youth league in Destin will be part of the NFL Youth Football program with each child getting an NFL jersey that will be theirs to keep at the end of the season.

The Destin league will be divided into three age divisions. The younger group, ages 6-8, is the largest with 59 kids spread across eight teams. In the 9-10 division, there will be four teams with about seven to eight kids each. In the older group, ages 11-13, there are about a dozen youth.

Practice will be starting the first week in September. Coaches will be meeting next week to go over rules followed by an evaluation of players and a draft on Thursday.

All games will be played in Destin at Morgan Sports Center on Saturday’s beginning Sept. 14. The only exception would be if there is a soccer tournament slated, then games would possibly be moved to Thursday, Kellar added.

Each team will play six games during the regular season and wrap up with a blind-draw single elimination tournament at the end.

“We’ve had a lot of interest,” Kellar said. “And if all goes well we may try to offer it again in the spring or summer time.”

 Why the shift to flag football?

Destin Middle School football Coach Mark Hinterthan said he's getting a lot of the players that would have been in the older age group for the tackle city league.

"We're trying to get them to learn our system and stay two or three years," Hinterthan said. As for younger kids, flag may be more appealing to some because it's not as physical, he added.