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The Virginian - Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)
It's a fast-growing sport, promoted as a fun, safe alternative to tackle football. And it has attracted 93 children playing on nine Parks and Recreation teams in Virginia Beach.
The inaugural season of the 7-on-7 coed youth football passing league has begun; and as the name suggests, every play is a passing play, and every player on offense is an eligible receiver.
It is essentially a game of touch football played with quarterbacks and receivers against linebackers and defensive backs. Starting this week, the fast-paced games are on Friday evenings at the Princess Anne Athletic Complex.
Frederick Jackson has coached hundreds of area youth in just about every sport during the past 22 years. He believes the new league - for children between the ages of 10 and 18 - has the potential to double in size.
"All of my kids are really excited," said Jackson, coach of the West Kempsville Purple. "It's new on the recreational level, so there may not be a clear understanding of the game. Parents have to see this, and then they'll be sold."
Jackson's team lacks female players, but he believes their numbers will increase when word about the league spreads.
There is no equipment to buy and no large time commitment - just a two-hour practice and one game, per week. The city provides the shirts and the new synthetic turf fields to play on.
Team mom Melanie Russ says her son, Bryce, a student at Kempsville Elementary, is excited to play for the Purple. Bryce, 11, also plays tackle football, so Russ appreciates the off-season conditioning the spring league provides.
"It's more about teaching skills and fundamentals to the kids, not making them into football players," said Jackson.
Last year, there was concern by some parents and coaches that noncontact football would replace tackle football on the recreational level. The parks and recreation department issued a statement that tackle football would continue, and that remains the case.
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"Changes to the leagues are made to ensure more children can play, which along with safety is the number one goal," said Julie Braley, public relations and content manager for the parks and recreation department. "There are no plans to do away with the tackle program."
Jackson, a Kempsville resident, has thought about retiring from coaching, but the new league provides him with more reasons to continue.
"These kids are enthusiastic and soaking it up like sponges," he said. "Even after 22 years of coaching, I still go home with a smile after every practice.
What: Inaugural 7-on-7 Coed Youth Passing League
When: Games are Fridays at 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30 p.m., through May 26
Where: Princess Anne Athletic Complex, 4001 Dam Neck Road
Cost: Free for spectators
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