City turns toward flag football in 5th, 6th grades |

City turns toward flag football in 5th, 6th grades

The city of Steamboat Springs will transition away from tackle football and to flag football for all of its athletes in third through sixth grades.
File photo

Youth football in Steamboat Springs

Registration starting Thursday online at

The program costs $75 per athlete.

More information is available at 970-879-4300.

— The city of Steamboat Springs is getting out of the tackle football business.

David Stevenson, sports coordinator for the Parks and Community Services Department, said the city will transition the two grade levels of tackle football it currently sponsors to flag football during the next two seasons.

“We definitely took our time to make what we feel is the best decision,” Stevenson said. “It wasn’t a black and white sort of thing, but we feel it makes the most sense.”

Last year, Steamboat had flag football available for third- and fourth-grade players, then tackle football for fifth and sixth graders. This fall, third-, fourth- and fifth-grade classes will play flag football while sixth-grade students will still play tackle.

Next year, the flag football program will extend to all four classes.

Tackle football will start in seventh grade when students enter the Steamboat Springs Middle School program.

The program has operated with about 120 athletes in all grades in recent seasons, down from years past.

Stevenson said he’s seen a slight dip in participation when young players go from flag football to tackle, though city youth football director John Overly, who oversees the programs, said participation was very even from both ends of the spectrum in recent seasons.

A long-time football coach with decades of experience organizing youth leagues, he’s supportive of the city’s decision.

“One of the key focuses was, let’s make sure we are doing everything we can to make sure we’re staying at the head of the concussion curve and that we’re teaching safety,” Overly said.

The plan from the city’s side is to transition sixth grade into flag football after this season, thus allowing last year’s fifth graders, who got a taste of tackle, to finish that progression.

“The sense from the football parties — the high school, the middle school and the medical community — was that they were coming down on the side of, ‘Yeah, we don’t feel like we need to offer contact football to kids in the fifth and sixth grades,’” Overly said. “They’re phasing in that change so kids who played in fifth grade last year won’t be left holding the bag, and they get to transition just like kids a year ahead of them.”

Classes behind that one won’t ever play tackle football in the city’s system, only picking up that element of the sport when students join the school district’s program in seventh grade and on into high school.

Officials said there is the possibility of a different entity other than the city stepping up to sponsor tackle football going forward. Overly said that could be most beneficial for the sixth-grade level.

It won’t happen through the city but wouldn’t be opposed by the city, either, Stevenson said.

“Our view on it is any sort of private entity that wants to step up to provide more offerings for kids, we’ll support that as long as it’s healthy for kids,” Stevenson said. “Really similar to soccer, basketball, lacrosse and hockey, if there’s demand for it and people and kids out there who want to be involved, it will come to fruition.”

A news release from the city cited a number of reasons behind the decision such as: safety, specifically “reducing the number of impacts on players;” increasing participation in those grades and in the future; neutralizing the wide maturation differences students of those ages can experience; and allowing young athletes to play more varied positions as they “develop a love for the game regardless of size/speed/etc.”

Registration for the program opens Thursday at It remains open until Aug. 4, and action will start several weeks later. The cost is $75 per athlete.

More information is available at 970-879-4300.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

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