Flags flew and smiles were in full display as Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana held their final game of this season’s flag football league at Valparaiso High School this weekend.
With a rich history going all the way back to 1860, Boys & Girls Clubs have a tradition of helping young people reach their full potential. With affiliated chapters around the country, they offer programs focusing on sports and recreation, the arts, education, health and wellness, career development and much more.
Jon Young serves as Program Director at Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana and heads the summer flag football league, which is comprised of roughly 200 players from around the area.
“Currently, we have four Clubs which participate,” Young said. “There’s the Portage Club, the Duneland Club from Chesterton, the South Haven Club and the Valpo Club. Next year we’re hoping to expand the league to include clubs from Lake county as well.”
The Valparaiso affiliate came into being in the 1970s.
“The Club looks to provide a positive, safe, after-school environment for the kids. We promote positive lifestyles,” Young said.
“The kids love this, the parents love it. There’s a lot of concern about injuries from playing football, and that’s what makes this league so popular,” Young said. “There’s no contact in flag football. There’s very little chance of injury, but the kids can still come out here, play the game and have a good time.”
Flag football focuses on passing and running rather than tackles.
“It gives the kids a chance to learn the game with little risk,” Young said.
Coaches are encouraged to rotate players, giving each child a chance to play multiple positions during the games. Young says that these games would not be possible without the help and cooperation of local individuals and organizations.
“Bill Marshall, the head football coach here at Valparaiso High School was just amazing. He helped arrange for us to be able to play our final games of our season here at the high school field. He also arranged to have several of his players come out today to help with our pass, punt, and kick competition. They’ve been an incredible help here today,” Young said. “Buffalo Wild Wings has also been incredible help, sponsoring us and providing the jerseys for the players. Portage Township trustee Brendan Clancy has also helped out, arranging for us to also play at Field of Dreams.”
Xander Servey, 11, of South Haven was enjoying his time on the field and is a huge fan of Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana.
“Everybody’s so fair. I can always go there and have fun. If I need someone to talk to, there’s always someone there for me,” Servey said.
Servey has big plans for his future, as well.
“I’d really like to work for Boys and Girls Clubs.”
Pam Balazs was on the sidelines at the game with her grandson.
“He’s not very athletic, but Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana is great because they give all the kids equal playtime, instead of only playing the more athletic kids,” Balazs said. “They give all the kids a chance to play.”
Cody Wishnevski and Jesse Harper, both 17, are players for the VHS Vikings who came out to help with the game.
“The kids really enjoy coming out here,” Wishnevski said.
“Especially the little kids,” Harper said. “We were in their shoes once too. We just are really happy to help them learn the basics and get started.”
Coach Bill Marshall of the VHS Viking football team was happy to be involved with Boys and Girls Clubs.
“What better way to get these kids out here, get them onto the field here, and give them a taste of what it’s like to play some football?” Marshall said.
“Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana is just outstanding. They are a tremendous group who are all about the kids. They really go out of their way to provide programs like this one here today.”
Participation in Boys and Girls Clubs is very affordable, costing as little as $35 for the entire year. They also offer a scholarship option for children who receive free or reduced cost lunch at school. Their cost is only $10 for the entire year.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana are always happy to welcome new members and volunteers. For more information, visit them at www.bgcgreaternwi.org.