Gridiron flag football league in progress to keep youth active

Ondrea Machin, Staff Reporter

It has been almost one year since the COVID-19 pandemic canceled all youth recreational sports, but the community of Ellensburg is hopeful that youth non-contact football will be offered this spring.

Gridiron Football is a football league for boys and girls ages 5-17 and offers four different levels of football experience. This year, it is offering non-contact football.

Emili Mays, a parent with three kids in the program, said the community tried to get this league before, but it fell through due to not enough kids being signed up. Mays said by spreading the word, it would bring another sport that Ellensburg doesn’t have for the kids.

Football operation Senior Manager Denay Stell said the league plans to make non-contact football as similar to regular football as possible. But, to do that there will be no tackle football, just flag football. Gridiron will still be teaching the fundamentals of tackle football though.

Some of the fundamentals taught are tracking players, catching and throwing the ball and learning plays and positions, without having to worry about the physical contact of tackle football.

“The idea is to give kids as much knowledge about the game of football and have a natural progression through each of our program offerings,” Stell said.

Stell and Mays said the league will follow COVID-19 protocols as mandated by the state and any local restrictions as well.

“I feel like the schools have proven that we can return safely to some things and this is one of those things that I feel like can be done safely,” Mays said.

Stell said they are checking temperatures, wearing masks at all times, having a team box and parents safety zone, spectators are required to social distance and even the huddles have been modified to ensure safety.

Special Programs Coordinator Kasey Knutson said the health department supports the community. From a public health perspective, they know sports are important for mental health, physical activity and overall health.

“We want people to have physical activity. We want people outside. We want people doing the best they can to be healthy and that includes physical activity,” Knutson said.

According to Knutson, the health order for Kittitas County is mirrored by the state mandates, which means they can be more strict with COVID-19 restrictions as they see fit.

The league is set to start in spring 2021 but if Kittitas County is not in phase two by then, it will be pushed out to summer or fall. If it gets canceled due to COVID-19 Gridiron will issue refunds.