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Sanibel Island Flag Football League offers something for everyone

By Staff | Nov 3, 2010

Though football officially began months ago, the Sanibel Island Flag Football League is still scouting for members!

Eric Pfeifer, owner of Pfeifer Realty and an active member of the island community, started the Sanibel Island Flag Football league in 2003 after recognizing a need for a program that gave young people an opportunity to get outside, get active and get involved.

“I love to see kids playing sports out on the field instead of sitting at home playing video games. Over the years, the response has been great,” Pfeifer said.

According to Pfeifer, flag football is a great way for kids to be active, build teamwork skills and most importantly, have fun.

And it’s safe too — because it’s flag football, there is no tackling.

During the 2006-07 season, Earnest Graham of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers visited the Sanibel Island Flag Football League.

“A lot of parents don’t want their kids to play football because it gets so brutal,” he noted, “but this sport is great because contact isn’t allowed.”

Though the majority of players attend the Sanibel School, the Sanibel League is open to any child age 6-14, whether they attend the school or not. The children who participate are divided into three age groups and each will play a game every Friday night throughout the season.

“With the 6-8 age group, we work on the basics, starting with something as simple as running the right way down the field. For the 9-11 age group, we work on basic football plays, passing and the kid start to learn the rules of the game. By the time we get to the 12-14 age group, it gets pretty serious and the coaches are downloading plays online trying to outsmart the other coaches,” Pfeifer said.

And because the Sanibel Island Football league encourages both boys and girls to join, Pfeifer said the boys better watch out — “Until they get up until about 13 or 14, the girls kind of dominate the boys.”

The Sanibel program is part of the National Football League’s youth flag football league, established in 1996 and designed to teach children about football with an emphasis on participation and sportsmanship — and it also means that all participants get jerseys with real NFL team names and logos.

Eric Pfeifer gathers his team into a huddle.

Some kids who started playing in the Sanibel League, Pfeifer noted, are now playing football for their high school teams in Fort Myers.

But the Sanibel Island Flag Football League wouldn’t be possible without continued support and participation from the community.

“We definitely need the support of the community. We have eight sponsors, but were always looking for more,” Pfeifer said. “What really makes it work is all the parents who volunteer the time to practice and teach the kids. Without the parents, it simply wouldn’t work.”

People who are interested in becoming a coach, volunteer or referee for the Sanibel Flag Football league should contact Pfeifer for more information. And if you know a high school kid who’s looking for ways to complete their community service, becoming a referee for the league is a great way to log those hours.

If you don’t have the time to coach, Pfeifer noted, just coming to the games and cheering on the kids is a great way to support the program and socialize with friends.

Pfeifer said that the three age groups will play games every Friday night under the lights at the Sanibel School fields.

“There’s nothing greater than being a coach or a parent and watching a child score his or her first touchdown or complete a pass. The kid is ear-to-ear grinning and it’s just awesome. That’s why I volunteer my time, not only for my kids but for the other kids,” Pfeifer said.

The cost to register for the Sanibel Island Flag Football League is $50 per child and includes uniforms, equipment, insurance and trophies. Parents can register their children, ages 6-14, at www.sanibelflagfootball.com.

If you are interested in becoming a coach, volunteer or a referee, please call Eric Pfeifer at 472-0004.