When I started the RedZone flag football league in 2013, I did something not all that common in youth football leagues by scheduling games on weeknights (Tuesday & Thursday). My reasoning was selfish; I wanted to watch NCAA and NFL games on the weekends. It was my ‘continuing education’ time.
We found out quickly that trying to schedule games for times after working parents leave the office and to finish them before the sun goes down in October is hard to do. We made it work that first year with 156 players on 14 teams, but recognized a need to consider this further. Then we realized the opportunity; we could offer an experience that allowed youth players to compete under the lights—something youth footballers dream of doing when they make the varsity squad.
Eventually, we started hearing from parents that really appreciated that we played weeknight games. It freed up their weekends for other activities and family time. Parents told us that the game schedule was one of their main reasons choosing to participate in RedZone. The league had 550 players and 41 teams in 2017.
I’d also like to think this gives our participants an opportunity to learn and develop a love for the game by watching their favorite teams and stars on the weekends as I did growing up. I didn’t have an option to participate in any organized football until 7th grade. My options to access the sport were to attend local games, watch them on TV, and then to go out and play my own games in the yard or at the playground trying to emulate the heroes and the legends I grew up watching. Football needs that.
I understand that every community, family, and youth football program has a different set of circumstances that would make weeknight games difficult or not feasible at all, but I would urge all organizers to consider the possibility and potential benefit of playing games on weeknights.
The Taking Back Football blog provides insight and commentary from Tyler Blum, a former University of Iowa player and now full-time youth football organizer. The blog focuses on discussion surrounding the sport, specifically at the youth and high school levels. Based on nearly a decade of professional experience in this field and interactions with coaches and parents across the state of Iowa, Coach Blum aims to serve the youth football community by delivering an experienced and qualified take on topics that organizers, coaches, and parents encounter in this realm.