Green Vale School Leads the Switch to Flag Football on Long Island

Facing declining participation, The Green Vale School in Old Brookville was the first middle school on Long Island to switch from tackle to flag football. Now numbers are up and other schools are joining in.

Three years ago, Green Vale’s Football Coach, Anthony Schettino, was facing declining participation amid the growing prevalence of injuries associated with tackle football. In fact, research has shown that football players are at the greatest risk of injury among school athletes, with the sport accounting for four out of 10 of all severe injuries reported. 

Schettino came up with a plan to introduce flag football at Green Vale. While flag football adheres to the same basic rules and objectives as tackle football, there is no physical contact. Instead, all players wear two strips of material (“flags”) attached at the waist by Velcro. When the defense removes a flag from the offensive player carrying the ball, forward progress stops at that point. Without tackling, there is no need for massive padding, helmets, and face-guards—and players are also less prone to injury.

It’s a smart approach given the increase in concussions among young athletes, especially since research shows children’s brains take longer to recover post-concussion. If left undetected, concussions can result in long-term brain damage and may even prove fatal. The rise in concussions, research, and public discussion has even led Pop Warner, the country’s largest youth football organization, to eliminate kickoffs this fall in the younger age divisions. Many school districts are also enforcing stricter policies on contact sports to ensure safer play.

RELATED: Find Athletic Programs in Long Island

Schettino’s flag football program started last season and was an instant hit with both players and parents. Though last year he had to devise an intramural structure since other Long Island schools were still playing tackle, this season other local schools have followed Green Vale’s lead and made the switch. Both Friends Academy and Allen Stevenson in Manhattan consulted Green Vale on how to structure a successful program, and players now experience both inter-school and intramural games.

Green Vale is also the first school to offer flag football as a co-ed program for both male and female students. As of mid-November, one girl had joined the team: sixth-grader Eleanor Rogers, who has been a strong competitor for two years and reports experiencing a resounding welcome.

If a school can get more kids moving and keep them active while keeping them safe they deserve an A+ in our book.

RELATED: Should Your Kid Play Contact Sports?

Main image: Green Vale students compete in flag football.
Courtesy The Green Vale School