Baseball may be America's official pastime but a recent study claims football is actually our favorite sport—and not just during Super Bowl season either. But while grown-ups may love watching or playing football, they're often less enthusiastic when it comes to their kids doing it, for risk of concussions and other head injuries.
Fortunately, New York City is home to a number of football programs for NYC kids, including non-contact options like flag and touch football, where tackling isn't part of the game. And even if your kids do opt for traditional American tackle football, these leagues make safety a priority, and generally children aren't allowed to pile on until they're past the peewee stage.
So get out that pigskin: Here are seven football programs where New York City kids can get their game on.
Find more NYC classes in our Classes Guide and Directory Listings.
NYC Parks Flag Football League – Citywide
This program runs August to November in all five boroughs and culminates in a citywide championship. All equipment is provided, no experience is necessary and, best of all, it's FREE! There's also a Wheelchair Flag Football League that welcomes people of all ages with disabilities.
New York City Youth Football League – Citywide
Whether you're looking to join the Brooklyn Skyhawks, the Bronx Knights, the Queens Falcons, or one of the other dozen teams in this league, you should be able to find one that fits your needs. Not all teams are the same. Some are co-ed, others offer travel teams for children as young as 7, while others espouse a winning-isn't-everything policy. Parents are invited to shop around before settling on the team that's right for their child.
Empire State Youth Football – Citywide
Another multi-team organization, this league includes the Harlem Jets, the Bronx Steelers, the Rockaway Ravens, the New York Warriors, and more, all under the umbrella of American Youth Football. AYF differentiates itself from other youth football organizations by stressing its "everyone plays" policy, meaning no tryouts and no cuts, as well as no weight limits, so children of all sizes and abilities are put into every game.
Flag Football at Chelsea Piers – Chelsea
This indoor program runs year-round in 17-week sessions. That means neither rain nor snow nor sleet nor the heat of an NYC summer will keep your player off the field.
Flag Football at Asphalt Green – Upper East Side
The Upper East Side sports mecca offers classes for players as young as 5, and by 8, they're eligible for the Youth Flag Football League. It kicks off with two weeks of 90-minute clinics with expert coaches drilling players in offensive and defensive concepts. The remaining eight weeks are split between practice and games.
Yorkville Youth Athletic Association – Upper East Side
One of the oldest community sports groups in NYC, the YYAA offers non-contact NFL Flag Football in the fall, winter, and spring, and a tackling team that starts in September for children as young as 6.
New York Giants Youth Football Camps – Tri-state area
With a location in Manhattan and plenty of others in the tri-state area, this summer camp offers a comprehensive skills program (running, throwing, catching, and defense) in a non-contact environment, or an accelerated skills "advanced classroom" that helps players hone their form, technique, speed, and skill through challenges and tournaments. Campers can also go in for the official NFL Punt, Pass and Kick Competition, where winners move on to sectionals and possibly nationals.
Find out about other sports programs for kids in our Classes Guide, and check out our guide to Free Summer Sports and Outdoor Programs for NYC Kids.
This post originally published in January 2014 but has since been updated.
Top photo: Play flag football at Chelsea Piers, no matter the weather! Image courtesy the venue.