LAND O'LAKES — Bobby Fox, a longtime Pasco resident and former Hudson High School quarterback, is trying to plant the passion for kids' flag football.
This summer, Fox, 38, is providing free NFL Flag Football camps at the Land O'Lakes Recreation Complex. Fox, who also is the organizer of the popular Pasco 4-on-4 adult flag football league, hopes the camps will create enough interest to form a youth league.
"Summer is a tough time to get a league started, so we decided to just do a camp that will allow us to determine whether or not there is enough interest to start a league in the fall and spring," Fox said. "We'd like to plant a seed that will grow a league, so right now we're just trying to get them out here, teach them some fundamentals of flag football and then let them scrimmage."
The game is slightly different from traditional football. The teams generally have five players on a field 50 yards long and 25 yards wide with 7-yard end zones. The NFL provides flags and jerseys for all players, meaning Fox can keep the camp free.
"Being an affiliate of NFL Flag, we get equipment," Fox said. "They provide the flags, and we have Buccaneer jerseys that are reversible so everybody is Buccaneer."
Chris Moore is enjoying the low-risk aspect of the camp. Flag football is a lower intensity sport for his son Dylan, 7; and it costs them nothing to participate, which softens the blow if his son doesn't enjoy it.
"The free aspect is a big positive," Moore said. "I took him to play tennis and he hated it. We had already paid for it, so then you start feeling like you have to make them go, so you're not wasting money. With this, we can find out if football is something that he wants to play without dumping much into it. So far, he likes it."
Fox hopes to garner enough interest from a wide age group and wants to develop a league for all ages. The current camp is open for kids ages 5 to 17, but attracting teenagers has been difficult. Most teens who play the game are likely already wearing pads on a tackle football field.
"Everything starts small, but if we let it grow organically, maybe we can get a league like they have in other big NFL cities," Fox said. "We have good facilities, we keep stats and try to do things to keep it interesting for them.
"It's not much different from running an adult league, and we've been successful with that. I think it's about management and organization, and we can do that well."
If he is successful in creating a league, NFL Flag Football teams that win in their local league could advance to compete in regional and national tournaments. The Super Bowl of NFL Flag's season takes place in the same city as the Super Bowl.
"It's just a little more incentive to come out and play," Fox said. "You can't just be a pub team and go play in those tournaments; you have to play in an NFL Flag league.
"I'm really hoping this camp is the beginning," he said. "We're keeping score, and we want the kids to want to win and to see that this can be just as competitive and fun as tackle football."
Riley O'Rourke, 13, is experiencing the game for the first time competitively.
"The coaches are all really nice and they've been teaching us some good things," O'Rourke said. "I'm learning how to run passing routes and what to do when I have the ball. I've never played football before, so it's been good."