Since 2005, the Southern Maryland Youth Flag Football League (SMYFFL) has been home to the largest co-ed youth flag football program in the state. Offering both Spring and Fall seasons, the organization is proud to have served thousands of young athletes and coaches for over 15 years.
League Owner/Commissioner Reggie Barksdale thinks flag football plays a pivotal role in growing the game of football overall and has designed the league to educate young people about football while emphasizing participation and sportsmanship.
“Flag football provides a safe and fun gateway to anyone that would like to pursue tackle football in their future,” Barksdale said. “It’s a great teacher of team sports, accountability and relationship building among peers.”
When it comes to safety, Barksdale said an incident that occurred a few years ago made the league shift some of their focus to making sure protecting their participants was a top priority.
“There was an incident that occurred a couple of years ago on Championship Day, where two teammates from our 7 & 8-year-olds division accidentally collided heads while going for the ball. One young man suffered a nasty cut along with a severe concussion that led to him being airlifted by Helicopter to Children’s Hospital in Washington, DC.”
While Barksdale had considered headgear in previous seasons like flag football helmets, he knew there had to be a change to his league operations and it started with him. “All eyes were on me since the incident happened in front of hundreds of players and family in the stands,” he said. “I did online research for weeks trying to find the right headgear.”
At the same time, Barksdale’s son’s high school 7on7 team had introduced GameBreaker headgear to his team and after seeing the products used in person, he was sold. Following some discussions with league parents and staff, the SMYFFL mandated GameBreaker headgear and has been promoting safety ever since. A decision Barksdale doesn’t take lightly.
“I don’t have any reservations at all,” Barksdale said of his league’s decision. “Even though we are all about promoting Fun and Sportsmanship, you can never let Safety fall by the wayside. Going to Mandatory headgear was probably the best decision that I have made with the League under my leadership. I feel good knowing that my kids are safe while playing the sport that they love.”
Check out our collection of soft shell football helmets to help stay protected.