If you could bottle the energy in a school, you’d have one explosive product. The Olathe School District and the Chiefs are hoping a new flag football program can channel that lively force toward athletic pursuits.
Three schools — Olathe Northwest High School, Chisholm Trail Middle School and Meadow Lane Elementary School — saw the roll-out of the program Monday.
At Meadow Lane, four classes of fourth- and fifth-graders filled the gym, participating in two flag football exercises: sharks and minnows, and the gauntlet. Former Chiefs players Anthony Davis and Gary Spani, along with two cheerleaders and various members of the Chiefs staff, joined in the fun.
Eleven-year-old Jonathan Mudd has played flag football at recess but was excited at the idea of having a chance to play on a real team.
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“It’s school, and you get to have fun when you’re supposed to be working,” he said.
Flag football isn’t a new idea to physical education teachers, but the Chiefs’ sponsorship means that the schools get extra equipment to help. That includes a class set of 30 Chiefs-branded pinnies and flag belts, some footballs, lesson plans and a Chiefs banner.
“We think everyone’s going to want to do it, because everyone wants to be Patrick Mahomes now,” said Mark Mahoney, who teaches physical education at Olathe Northwest.
The idea is to add flag football to the curriculum to encourage students to play it on their own at recess and after school.
“I grew up playing touch football a lot of Sunday afternoons in somebody’s backyard. Those were some of my most favorite, wonderful times of my life,” said Spani, director of community engagement for the team.
Mahoney said he also hopes that by teaching the game in class, more girls get involved.
“Obviously, females don’t usually play tackle football… it’s a huge part of America. To have some understanding and be able to talk about it I think is very valuable,” Mahoney said.
Right now, it’s a pilot program. Initially, the Chiefs were just going to do an elementary program, but because the district was interested in expanding it to the upper grades as well, all three school levels became part of it.
“It’s a lot easier to strap a flag around a waist than to put on a helmet and pads,” said Tyler Epp, executive vice president of business operations for the Chiefs, adding that they hope to involve as many kids as possible, with few hurdles along the way.
Though football may seem ubiquitous in America, many people are unaware of the basics of the game.
“When we play flag football, there are a lot of people who don’t know what a line of scrimmage is or what a touchdown was,” Mahoney said.
Epp hopes that the program will encourage kids to have healthier lifestyles.
“Most of the kids might not make it to the NFL… but they’re getting those early life lessons about how to take care of themselves, and we believe football is part of it,” he said.
Initial plans are to try the program in these three schools for the rest of the school year, make adjustments to it over summer, then extend the program to other Olathe schools in the fall.
If all goes well, the Chiefs hope to expand the program over the next three to five years, depending on the interest from local school districts and other community partners, Epp said.