Great Falls’ flag football program attracts youth
Program promotes fundamentals, teamwork and sportsmanship.
For more than 25 years, The Salvation Army Great Falls (Mont.) Corps Youth Center has offered local youth a flag football program. After a strong start with around 400 children, the program steadily grew. This year over 600 children participated.
“Providing a foundation for football for the youth in Great Falls has proved to be very valuable,” said Gary Bistodeau, Great Falls youth director who has been involved in the flag football program for 24 years. “Great Falls has been one of the top football cities in Montana for years, with many of our past participants going on to play college football, and some even professionally.”
This year, the program had 46 teams of 10-16 children playing through the flag football season, which starts in September and ends in mid-October. Each team has volunteers who function as head coach, assistant coach, team parents and field officials to help out in the games.
“Volunteer recruitment is one of the top priorities for all programs [offered at the youth center], especially flag football,” Bistodeau said. “Throughout the years, we have come in contact with thousands of great people who have volunteered and contributed to the success of the program.”
Although October is a cold and snowy month for Montana, the children usually want to play no matter what and just dress in warm clothing.
“The volunteers and children make all the work worth it to us,” Bistodeau said.
No scores or standings are recorded at the games, and coaches are not allowed to stress winning games to the players.
“Our flag football strives to promote fundamentals, teamwork and sportsmanship in a non-competitive environment,” Bistodeau said. “The most important thing for everyone that participates is that they have fun.”