OAKLAND -- In the area of youth sports, baseball is an international phenomenon and soccer's popularity continues to grow across North America. Youth football programs, while present in many communities, tend to pale in comparison to those of other sports.
Enter East Bay Flag Football, set to kick off its inaugural season on Sept. 15.
"It's a nonprofit that my family and I started a couple of months ago," said league president and Oakland resident Adam McNulty. "My kids have played flag football for a long time. Last year, I ran a flag football league, but it wasn't East Bay Flag Football."
Youth football has many formats, and the McNultys had a difficult time finding a league suitable for their son, Aidan, who had suffered a stroke as a 10-year-old in 2010.
"We didn't know if he would walk again or even live through that," McNulty said.
Today, Aidan McNulty's left arm remains affected, but as a right-hander, he still can throw the ball. A perfect attribute for a quarterback. He just needed a place to play.
"Surprisingly, there's not a lot of flag football around," Adam McNulty said. "We'd have to go to Walnut Creek or Concord. There's a league in Richmond, but it's 7-on-7 and allows blocking."
East Bay Flag Football, instead, is affiliated with NFL Flag football, a 5-on-5 game that allows no blocking or contact of any kind.
East Bay Flag Football is open to residents of Oakland and Piedmont, with competition offered in both 9-11 and 12-14 age divisions. The eight-team league's regular season runs through Nov. 3. All practices and games take place Sunday afternoons, practices starting at 4 p.m., with games kicking off at 5.
"We have about 50 kids right now," McNulty said. "We would like to have about 10 or 15 more."
Beyond the regular season, players may compete in NFL Flag Regional Tournament at the Oakland Raiders practice facility in Alameda on Nov. 9. Division winners from each Regional Tournament advance to the NFL Flag National Tournament in New York, the weekend before the Super Bowl.
Cost for East Bay Flag Football registration is $150 per player through Sunday and $175 afterward. As a nonprofit, any money raised above costs (field rental, insurance, officials) will go to charity.
For more about EBFF or to register online, go to www.eastbayflag.com. To find our more about the NFL Flag National Tournament, go to http://www.nflflag.com/events.