Naperville school district replaces tackle football with flag football

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Naperville School District 203 announced that tackle football will be replaced by flag football at five junior high schools in the fall. (WLS)

Naperville School District 203 announced that tackle football will be replaced by flag football at five junior high schools in the fall.

The Kennedy Junior High football team had enough players to field a team last season, but just barely. The trophy case has footballs and banners hang in the gym, but as of next season the school's football team will no longer wear pads. Instead they will use flags.

Other Naperville District 203 schools are also seeing a decline in football participation, in part because of some parent's concerns about injuries. That's why the district decided to try flag football instead.

Principal Brian Valek said he wants to encourage kids to play football, and flag football is a way to do that without concerns about hitting, which can cause injuries. But tackle football is still alive and well in Naperville. According to organizers, the Pop Warner team the Patriots Youth Football League is seeing good numbers.

The principal said the junior high program will still teach football principals, just without hitting.

The head of the Patriots program said safety is their top concern, and according to several suburban youth coaches, they have reduced hitting in practice to limit risk. They said they have changed drills to improve conditioning, and they follow a strict concussion protocol.

A former player in the Patriots program is likely to be drafted in the NFL Thursday night and many others are at major colleges on scholarship. The junior high school is hoping to keep that dream alive for kids, starting with flag football
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