GONZALES — Brian Sholar didn’t plan to spend five weeks of his summer coaching his son’s flag football team.
But there he was Saturday evening, running up and down the field shouting instructions to his players as the Ascension Youth Football League’s 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds played their fourth game of the year.
Sholar said he arrived at the first game “and a man handed me a clipboard and pointed to my team.”
With a limited knowledge of the game, Sholar decided to give it a try, and he’s happy he did.
League organizer Mark Peters, founder of Hope Youth Development, is also pleased with the parent support the three-year-old league has enjoyed.
Peters started the league in Donaldsonville and expanded it to Gonzales to provide summer activities for children “looking for something to do.”
Unfortunately, Peters didn’t sign up enough players in the Donaldsonville area for a program this year, but he’s got 40 boys and girls playing each Sunday next to Spartan Stadium in Gonzales.
Peters said he discovered there wasn’t another flag football league in the summer and decided to contact the New Orleans Saints for help.
“They were gracious enough to provide us with some flags and we got started,” Peters said.
Affordability and the length of the program is attractive to many of the parents, he said.
Sholar’s wife, Alissa Sholar, said she tried to sign up her son Cade, 6, for a summer basketball camp, “but he wanted to play football.”
She praised Peters for his patience with the children and his dedication to the league.
Peters also hosts soccer, tennis and golf camps.
Nella Duplessis, who was there to watch her grandson Evan, 7, play, said she’s happy just to see the children having fun and being active.
“They need to run,” Duplessis said. “The score doesn’t matter; we’re out here to have fun.”
Duplessis and the other parents, who used umbrellas to guard against the sun, dotted the sidelines as the children practiced before the game got started on Saturday.
Duplessis said Evan has been wanting to play on the team since he heard about it in the winter.
“He said he had to get in shape to play football,” she said. “So, we practiced in the front yard.”
Coach Christina Planche was busy teaching her players to yell “hike as loud as you can,” and at the other end of the field, Sholar put his players through a series of passing drills.
“There you go, good job,” said coach Jackie Jones as a player caught the ball.
With just five minutes left in practice, Peters using a bullhorn to announce it was almost game time.
The players get their final instructions and run to the sidelines for some water.
As in most football games, a coin toss is used to determine who gets the first offensive possession. The rules of the game are simple — each team gets three plays to make it to the 40-yard line. Players must pull one of their opponents flags in order to stop the play.
The field is half the size of a regulation football field and two referees try to keep the game moving.
On Sunday, sometimes the players would ignore the whistle and keep running even though the referees had stopped the game.
Planche and coach Jeff Simoneaux said they enjoy watching how excited the children get when the succeed on the field.
“It’s fun to see them get the ball and take off running,” Sholar said. “Even if their flag is pulled, sometimes they just keep running.
“It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about teaching them about the game,” Sholar said.
The coaches all agreed that they have seen progress since the first game.
In the games involving the youngest players, the coaches are on the field, helping them with the plays.
As the game ended, Brelayn ???? get last name) 5, picked up her pouch drink and ran over to her mother’s lap.
She was quick to point out that she likes playing with the boys and that football is her favorite sport.
The season ends July 9, when all the teams gather for the last games of the season, Peters said.