By Marty Farmer
It's fourth down and goal to go with a just a few precious seconds remaining on the clock. The quarterback approaches the line of scrimmage and astutely looks over the secondary's coverage. Down, set, Hut 1, Hut 2, Hike!
A plethora of wide receivers scurry through assorted routes in hopes of catching the game-winning touchdown.
The boisterous crowd rises in anticipation as a tight spiral pass is released by the quarterback under a deluge of blitzing linebackers. A glut of receivers and defensive backs leap high in the air, and the catch is…
Welcome to the Legacy Sports Camp Flag Football League where spectacular plays, a love for the game, plenty of fun and even an element of the dramatic unknown as described above are much more than just a passing fancy.
Although passing-based youth flag football leagues are not that uncommon, the Legacy FFL separates itself from the competition in a variety of ways. A unique experience for the players in ensured.
"I've seen what other flag football leagues look like in our local area and beyond," said Dan Kane, Director of Camp Operations and Owner Legacy Sports Camp. "Other leagues may include scrimmages and the kids get a t-shirt, but Legacy FFL has a preseason combine, coaches, referees, announcers, music and league newsletter.
"During the playoffs, we announce the starting lineups and we always play music between plays. There's also a non-traditional coin toss. We really get creative with our game presentation so the kids have fun and feel special, kind of like NFL players."
The Legacy FFL has also established a reputation as an extremely fan-friendly league. Games are played at the Sports Zone, a state of the art, multiple-sport facility in Melrose Park
"At some other camps or leagues, the environment isn't as comfortable or family friendly," Kane said. "At our (flag football) games, families and friends come out to the support the players. They wear team colors and bring signs to support the players which is great."
Along with having fun, players are given an opportunity to learn more about football in a safe, protective environment with knowledgeable coaches.
"I know there are concerns about injuries, particularly concussions, with football but in flag football, we offer a safer alternative without sparing on the action and excitement," Kane said. "The Legacy FFL is a non-contact sport with no intentional tackling or hitting. Obviously, a kid can jam a finger or trip on the field but we watch our players closely to foster their safety.
"We also have coaches and players in our league who are very football-oriented. There are other kids who just to learn about the game and have fun. It's a good mix because the players learn about football and have a good time."
Another attractive aspect of the Legacy FFL is teams are evenly matched with typically close games throughout the season. A preseason combine offers players a chance to meet other kids and get acclimated to the league, while also allowing coaches an opportunity to watch the kids play.
"The combine is recommended for the players, especially the new kids," Kane said. "The talent and experience levels of each player can be wide ranging so the coaches and I are at the combine to evaluate talent."
This spring, the Renegades, Sting Rays, Raptors and Tigers (each team had approximately 11 players) battled it out for league supremacy. The Raptors defeated the Renegades 24-22 in the championship game.
"We don't have a draft, but I usually pick the teams and make them as evenly matched as possible," Kane said.
In fact, competition was so keen during the Spring League that only two games were decided by more than three points and no team went undefeated. Additionally, The Legacy FFL had its first and second game-winning field goals.
With a second successful spring season in the books, Kane is optimistic that league growth will continue in the fall.
"Spring is more of an abbreviated season," Kane said. "It's more of a passing league and kind of training season, even though teams obviously are still trying to win games.
"A lot of kids that participate in the spring season typically come out for fall, which is usually our bigger season. There are definitely veterans that come back every season, but we're also getting a lot of new players."
Reflective of Kane and Caleb Fields' vision when the Oak Park natives and friends founded Legacy Sports Camp in 2008, flag football is just one of many options offered to young, aspiring athletes.
Legacy Sports Camp offers sports and activities like boys and girls summer basketball leagues, baseball, other sports, family dodgeball, sports-themed birthday and block parties, holiday and after-school camps.
"I didn't grow up playing just one sport," Kane said. "Some people like to focus on one sport, but others like the variety and fun of trying several (sports).
"The purpose of Legacy Sports Camp is helping kids have fun, positive experiences with different sports. When they are older like in high school, they can say 'Hey, I've tried these five or six sports and these are the one of two I'd like to focus on.'"
Kane, who graduated from Ascension and Oak Park and River Forest High School, has always had a passion for athletics.
Sharing his love of sports with kids in his hometown just might end up being his legacy.
"I'm always trying to make people laugh or smile. Sports is a great way to connect with people."
For more information about Legacy Sports Camp, visit www.legacysportscamp.com
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