Flag football participates for the first time in the Alabama State Games |  Sweetened

Flag football participates for the first time in the Alabama State Games | Sweetened

john johnson

Jason Bowden coached a group of science soccer players on Saturday morning whom he met shortly before the game and planned a wedding several hours later.

Understandably, some frustration set in when he tried to mentor the 14-year-old division team at Northcote Field in Dothan as part of the Alabama State Games.

“The only reason I do it is to give back to the kids so they have a chance to have fun,” Bowden said. “Even when the match was over, I said no matter what happens, have fun…because I saw some of them were getting frustrated.”

Soccer, one of the fastest growing sports in the country, is being held as part of the state’s first games this weekend. Over 30 teams participated in five different age divisions not only from Alabama, but also from neighboring states such as Georgia and Florida.

Boden was ready to coach the 8-man squad he was working with, but was asked to take charge of the 14U team from Dothan when he arrived Saturday morning.

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“What happened is that whoever was coaching this 14U team … I think any coach would do that, they ended up not being able to do it,” Bowden said. “They said they needed a coach for the match, and I said, ‘Okay, I’ll try to help. “

“Honestly, I just met everyone when we walked in. Look at this…I have six plays I drew with a pen. My goal now for Team 14U is to get them to learn these things for tomorrow (Sunday). I don’t care today.”

“By tomorrow we have these things where I have a playbook and a foundation where I can summon a play from the sideline and they can automatically switch to it.”

Learning on the go is not uncommon for newcomers to the world of football. Even some officials, accustomed to calling it traditional football, are asking questions.

“If they’re attackers, the quarterback can run, right?” asked one of the referees David Mosley, the NFL Flag Alabama state manager, who oversees football in the state.

Mosley, who lives in Dothan, has seen a sharp rise in the sport in recent years and believes the future is very bright. The partnership with the Alabama State Games is another step forward, as was the Alabama High School Athletic Association sanctioning girls’ soccer as an AHSAA sport last year.

“The best thing about football is that it fits every kid,” Mosley said. “You don’t have to be the fastest; you don’t have to be the strongest. There’s a kid here today who has scoliosis. There’s a kid here with braces on his leg, but everyone can come together for this sport.”

David Martin is the head of the local football association, and he says it’s not too difficult for traditional soccer officials to learn the rules of soccer. The younger divisions play 5 – 5 – and the oldest 7 – against – 7.

“A lot of it parallels football. There is clearly no connection; It’s just pulling the flag. A lot of the signs are the same and a lot of the penalties are the same. Frankly, the switch from regular football to flag ball is very minimal.”

However, it was difficult to find officials at times, which is the case for most sports. Martin oversees the appointment of officials. There are about 30 teams that have been competing over the past two seasons of youth sponsor football in Dothan.

“I’ve had four (officials) fixed in the last two seasons and that’s what we use on Sunday (regular season games) is four,” Martin said.

He pointed to an official who was launching a flag football game for the first time on Saturday.

“This guy is the first time he’s raised the flag, but he’s a football official, so the transition isn’t difficult,” Martin said.

Martin believes the sport will continue to thrive in the region and throughout the state.

“It’s growing because the chance of injury is less,” Martin said. “Mama’s almost not worried because she’s completely disconnected.”

Picked up by Chelsey Hoskins from Centerville, Ga. Photographed while her son, Noah, was playing for Wartown Flight Squad 10 under the club’s squad.

“He absolutely loves it,” Hoskins said. “This is his first season playing and he has been asked to join the flying squad to travel.”

Since games in various age divisions were held at Northcutt Field, Mosley was proud that the sport was part of the Alabama State Games.

“What you see here is what we want to do to the community,” Moseley said. “We have teams from Florida, teams from Georgia … economic inputs, heads in beds who stay overnight. We just want to bring more into the Dothan economy.”

Football matches continue on Sunday as the Alabama State Games, which feature a variety of Olympic-style sports and have held for 39 years across the state, conclude their second consecutive year and fifth overall as Wiregrass is the host site.

Other sports that will be completed on Sunday in Dothan include soccer (Westgate) and 12U baseball (James Oates Park).

For more information about the Alabama State Games, go to www.alagames.com

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