This is the first year that the Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation Department has offered flag football as part of their Murfreesboro Football League program.
Coach Barry Messer explains to the players what he would like for them to do on the next play Sept. 8, 2012, during a flag football game at the Youth Football Complex in Murfreesboro, Tenn. (TMP Photo/ J. Davis)
Open to 5 and 6-year-olds, the division has six teams that play on a shortened field Saturday mornings at the Murfreesboro Youth Football Complex.
A coach of one of the teams is Barry Messer, whose day job is a school teacher at Riverdale High School. He is also the Warriors baseball head coach and the schools athletic director.
"What drew to me to coach in the flag football league is that my son, Bryce, wanted to play," explained Messer who coaches the Bronco's. "He also plays baseball but during the baseball season I cannot get to many of his games because of my coaching at Riverdale. This gives me a chance to be with him and coach a different sport."
Where the divisions above flag football in the MFL are allowed to practice several times during the week, flag football coaches work with their players once a week, 45 minutes before the game starts.
"Practicing like we do really helps with the kids," Messer explained. "At this age their attention span is short and what we work on with them in practice, we can carry it over immediately into the game. To repeat what we just went over is the right way to do it in this age group.
"And you do not want to be critical about their performances at this age. Just let them have fun and encouraging them to do the best they can is what we really try to do each week."
Where Messer has plenty of experience in the coaching ranks, Clint Marks is as much rookie as a rookie can be. A former MTSU quarterback, Marks is the head coach of the Bears.
"This is the first time that I have coached anything," said Marks, the starting signal caller for the Blue Raiders in 2004-2006. "My father coached me from flag football up through the Pop Warner leagues and I have a new respect for him. I've told him I do not know how he did it."
Mark’s father Carlos Marks assists his son with the coaching, and Clint's son Tatum is a player on the team.
"Trying to keep them listening to the coaches, not playing in the dirt or running around chasing each other can be a challenge," Marks said with a laugh. "But more than anything for this age is to have fun, learn some fundamentals, learn how to hand off the ball and run in the right direction. It can be hard at times with this age but it is really is a lot of fun at the same time."
Two 20 minute halves make up the game and once the contest begins the clock never stops except for a 10 minute break between halves. No score is kept and there is no record of wins or loses. Each team fields six players.
"I am having a blast with these boys," Marks added. "For someone that wasn't even planning to coach a team this has all work out well. I probably look forward to each Saturday's game more than the boys on the team do."