“It can be a lot of work coaching kids, but Flag Star has assembled a great group of patient, encouraging coaches who love what they do!”
— Holly Borowski, Chicago

A Letter From Our Director 

Dear Friends and 'Chicagolandians' alike,

My name is Evan Mulrooney, a former collegiate football player at the University of Maryland and a passionate, fun-loving goof, who is so thankful to be able to bring the mission of Flag Star Football (Get Better. Have Fun.) to the greatest city in the world.

I LOVE Chicago, and I am proud to say it. There is a certain aura that surrounds the city. It is full of energy, positivity, and comradery that is reflective of everything Flag Star represents. That is why I could not be more thrilled to get this thing rocking!

I want nothing more than to provide Chicago with something as energetic and fun as the city itself.  This league is something that the community can count on to be a positive extension of educational, social, and athletic development outside of the schools.  Above all, however, it will be an institution of energetic FUN.

This league is for ALL kids (grades K-7th). There is NO EXPERIENCE needed at all. Flag Star is the perfect place for everyone from seasoned flag football veterans to kids who have never played a sport in their life. The only thing needed for this league is a willingness to improve and above all, HAVE A BLAST!

Alongside my stellar coaching staff, and with an immeasurable amount of positive energy and enthusiasm I aim to establish an impactful, community-based league that is indicative of an affirming and positive atmosphere.   

Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you need anything, I am always around.

LET’S BOOGIE!

Evan Mulrooney

 

My Vivid Vision for Flag Star Football

A letter from the Founder

(Note: This is Carl, the founder of Flag Star Football. The below text is something I wrote up for the vision/future of our company. 

The plan, for those who are curious, wasn't necessarily to start a location in Chicago (or any other city) this soon. But after I met Evan -- who helped me start our program here in DC -- I almost DEMANDED he start a program of his own. Because the guy is special. And has exactly what it takes to provide a special experience for your kids. 

That's neither here nor there, but I did want to make that note. Because I love the guy like crazy. And I'm proud to have him flying the Flag Star colors!) 

My Vivid Vision:

Hopefully, you don’t get to know our company over the internet. Or in a word document. Flag Star Football is meant to be experienced in person -- out on the field and, logistically, via e-mail -- but it never hurts to document a couple things.

The following free-write is based off an exercise in the book “Double Double.” The book (which is an awesome business book, by the way) talks about painting a picture of your company three years from now. And sharing that picture with your employees, customers, and anyone else who might be interested. That’s what I’m doing here.

And while the prompt calls for a picture of “your company in three years,” my vision for that company looks a lot like my goals for our leagues today.

In three years....

Flag Star Football is a well-oiled business/non-profit, providing a top-level sports experience while creating positive social change.

Flag Star Football has the opportunity to be something great. It can shape the youth of tomorrow, influence the parents of today, mold the young professionals of the moment and provide a racial and socio-economic bridge between two massively disjointed worlds. Three years from now, I hope we’re achieving this change and continuing to look towards what’s next.

Flag Star Football should be special. It’s hard to quantify (although our parent surveys should yield data on a high-performing company), but it’s easy to feel. Is the program special? Do people really care about the program? Is it setting itself apart from other parts of people’s lives?

Are people walking off the field pumped up, happy, glad they came out for the day?

They should. And that starts with me as the team captain. We have to rise about the temptation of “just fine,” and provide an experience that shapes the world in the way we’d like to see it move.

Things should be special. In three years, I hope our playing environments make this special for everyone. I’ve always seen us as an athletic safety net for the book-worms, video game junkies and couch-dwellers of the world. We have to provide the energy and the engagement to keep these kids playing sports.

And at the same time, make things challenging. Encourage kids to compete. I’m almost allergic to kids complaining about calls, but I don’t mind when they get upset. If kids cry after a particularly bad loss -- that’s cool. It’s kind of awesome, actually. I’ve cried after more games than I’d care to disclose. And I know our coaches have, too.

Actually, our coaches should be the kinds of guys who’d cry after a particularly bad loss. This year, I went to the senior game of one of our referees and -- after his team lost -- he walked off the field covered in tears. One of our new interns just finished his college career and, with a big smile, told me he was “crying like a baby” after their last game. I walked by the huddle of a championship team and heard our coach say “coach promised he wouldn’t cry…” and continue to congratulate the team while fighting back tears.

I love this kind of stuff. It shows our people have heart. That’s what life is about. It’s what sports are about. It’s what Flag Star Football is -- and should continue to be -- about.

Our referees should be teaching the game, and not just throwing flags and mumbling calls. Every flag should come with a lesson. Our coaches should be learning the kids’ names, putting them through real drills, and working to game-manage -- running a real offense/defense while working to keep everyone involved. Our field managers should know the parents and greet folks with a smile.  

It’s too easy to be average. It’s too easy to let a parent be “kind of an asshole” on the sideline and not say anything to him. But we also can’t say anything to him unless we’re in a place -- emotionally, spiritually, operationally -- where we’re living our ideals of positivity. Are we telling them not to complain about calls because we love our referees, trained our refs, and know they’re trying their best? And because complaining about calls sets a toxic environment for the kids? Or are we telling parents “it’s not a big deal,” because we don’t think it’s a big deal and we just want to get in the car at the end of the day and go home?

We should never be afraid to confront a parent if they’re taking away from the playing environment. No matter the parent -- no matter how influential they might be -- we need to put our mission first. I’d rather lose their business than compromise ours.

But even that is too negative. We should be leading with love, setting a tone of positivity. It should be cool to be cool. Make kindness the norm and the negativity will take care of itself. Except when it doesn’t, and then it’s our job to have that tough conversation.

We should be engaging with young professionals and empowering them to do a great job. We should be employing college athletes, genuine people and young hustlers to keep and manage the brand. They should finish the season and be eager to get back started the next year. Our leagues should be pulling people towards us with a gravity of love and community.

That goes for players, families and employees alike. We’ll know we’re thriving when people are coming to us. When parents tell other parents about their experience. When coaches and referees bring their best friends into the fold.

We should be a family. We should know about each other’s lives. We should have a group of coaches, referees, parents, kids, such that we’re excited to see other people at the field every week. People should be dapping up and saying hello when they see each other. We should be a family.

And we should watch out for our family. Connect our family. We have the privilege to work in some incredibly affluent areas. The parents walking our sidelines are the same folks who are running massive companies, firms, funds. We should be connecting lower-income, racially diverse employees with parents who are willing to help.

We shouldn’t be hyper-focussed on race, but we can never lose sight of it. The reality of this world is that black kids and white kids just don’t mix very much. And that many of the folks who referee and coach for us don’t have the chance to “grab coffee” with C-level executives. I’m convinced in the goodness of our parents -- that they’d be eager to take 20 minutes to sit down and share knowledge with someone of a different socio-economic background. We’re in a unique position to offer that opportunity. We should be making those connections. For everyone’s sake.

I want our leagues to be a mixing pot, including kids from all walks of life. For as long as this league exists, we should welcome every single player. If they can’t afford the whole cost, we should reduce it. If they can’t afford any of it, that player plays for free. We will never turn a player away. And we’ll be respectful of how hard it is for families to talk about money. I’d rather us be push-overs and hand away scholarships than make a single-mother write a three-page letter about how hard things are for her family.

We should be giving people the benefit of the doubt. And we should be seeking out opportunities to share this league with everyone. It’s not enough to write “scholarships available” on the corner of our website. We should be making real connections in the community and encouraging families to take us up on this offer.

And we should be entrepreneurs. We’ll operate our leagues as non-profits (and abide by all governing laws of a 501c3, including financial disclosures), but it takes business-savvy to keep something like this alive.

If we believe in what we’re doing -- providing a positive sports experience, shaping the youth of tomorrow, providing opportunities for young professionals and bridging a racial/socioeconomic gap -- we shouldn’t be embarrassed to grow. Growth, through this lens, means spreading our mission and ideals with a greater group of people. And that’s a beautiful thing.

But while we grow, we can’t dilute. I love the idea of evolution in the company -- referees becoming coaches, coaches becoming managers, managers starting their own leagues -- and we should encourage that kind of development. But any program we offer, whether it’s a new league or a long-time program, should still have that Flag Star Football feel to it. When we become “just another league,” when things are “fine,” it’s time to take a serious look in the mirror.

Which is a good thing. Looking in the mirror is a productive exercise. So is listening to the feedback of our parents. This season, we realized not everyone knew the league rules and this was leading to some confusion/tension. Nothing big, but something was a teensy-bit off.

As a result, we’re making a video with all the league rules, so everyone can be on the same page. If there’s a problem in the league -- and really, it’s pretty easy to identify a problem -- we should engage with the issue and improve the system which caused it.

And, while ‘fine’ is the enemy of ‘great,’ we’ll also keep in mind that ‘perfect’ is the enemy of ‘done.’ That goes for this vision statement as well. It’s not perfect -- we’re not perfect, and still won’t be in three years -- but how boring would perfection be?

In the meantime, let’s work hard and enjoy ourselves.

Get better. Have fun. 

- Carl

It's All About the Rules!

Flag Star Flag Rules

The BIG Stuff

  1. The goal of Flag Star Football is two-fold: Get Better. Have Fun. That’s not a rule, but always a good place to start.

  2. The biggest rule we have is ‘be a good sport.’ Or, framed differently, ‘don’t be a jerk.’ We’re here to play ball, not call personal fouls and litigate calls.

  3. THERE ARE GOING TO BE BAD CALLS! Inevitably, there will be calls that end drives, lose games or cost a team a championship. Terrible calls. Awful calls. Our referees are human -- allow them that humanity.

  4. If you argue from the sidelines or make a scene, you must volunteer referee a game before you’re welcome back on the field.

Logistics

Each game will consist of two twenty-minute halves. These halves have a running clock, except the final two minutes. The final two-minutes will be conducted with clock-stoppages in accordance with NFL rules. One referee will keep the official time.

Teams will each have one time-out per half.

Each team will have 30 seconds between plays before a “delay of game” penalty is called (although there will be a lenient window for the first couple weeks, as well as for younger age groups).

Teams start on their own 20 yard line. They have four downs to get to mid-field. Then four downs to get to the 20 yard line. Then four more to score. Each time a subsequent line is crossed, the team is awarded a first-down.

Flags must be worn above the player’s jersey. In the event a player’s flag falls off incidentally, the play continues until the ball-carrier is touched by the defense. There is no rule against wearing the same color flag as your jersey/shorts.

The defense is lined-up behind a five-yard buffer from the offense. They have a free rush as soon as the ball is snapped. If the ball is spotted near a first-down marker/goal-line, the defense will never be at more than a yard’s disadvantage. For example, if the offense is one yard from the first-down line, the defense is only set two-yards behind the other side of the line. This rule trumps the five-yard buffer rule.

The ball will be spotted where the player's flag is pulled. Not where he extends the ball. As such, there is no head-first diving for a marker. A player who attempts to dive will be whistled dead at the spot of his lunge.

After a score, the offensive team is given the option of going for one or two. If going for one, the team will start with the ball four yards away from the goal-line. For two points, the ball is placed eight yards from the goal-line. A defensive player may return an intercepted extra point attempt for two points (regardless of whether the offense attempted one or two points).

A coach may -- on offense or defense -- stand on the field, so long as he doesn’t get in the way of the play.

OFFENSE

Running Plays

After the ball is snapped, anyone on the offense may attempt a run. Runners must “pick a side” and are prohibited from intentionally running up the middle of the field. Running directly up the middle results in a loss of down. A “side” constitutes -- most generally -- an imaginary five-yard “tackle box.”

There remains gray area here and the decision is ultimately the referee’s. The runner must begin his path with an angle towards the outside and make an honest attempt towards getting “around the edge.” If he attempts to beat the defense outside but is forced in by the action of the defense, he is then allowed to run up the middle.

Quarterbacks who are flushed up in the pocket must also make an attempt to run outside. In the case that a defensive end runs past them in their rush, the quarterback may step up in the pocket, but must then pick a side to commit to before advancing the ball.

Quarterbacks

For the K-1st grade and 2nd-3rd grade divisions, the coach plays quarterback. He does not count in the 7 vs 7 player participation. From 4th grade - up, the players are quarterback.

Linemen

There must be three men on the line of scrimmage for each play.  All players, however, are eligible. These “linemen” need not be within any certain distance of one-another.

Blocking

Offensive players are allowed to block. This is done by shuffling your feet -- much like a moving screen in basketball. Players are not allowed to use or extend their hands/arms when they block. As a good teaching point, blocking players’ elbows must be touching his/her torso, with their hands crossed.

Players may block on running or passing plays, but can not “drive block” (running forward into a defensive player). They can play the angles, but not push towards their opponent.

Similarly, because an offensive player can not use his hands or “drive block,” a defensive player can not defeat blocks with hand-violence or “bull rush” the offensive player.

There are no crack-blocks. On running plays, “picks” are acceptable, so long as the picking player is stationary and does not endanger the defensive player he is picking.

Illegal blocking is assessed as a loss of down and a five yard penalty from the spot of the foul.

Punting

On fourth down, teams may elect to “punt,” automatically starting the opposing team on the opposite 20 yard line.

Bad Snaps

We’re making a rule book to give the game structure, not to be militant about the experience. If a K-1 or a 2nd-3rd grade team (at-least for the first couple weeks) snaps the ball and it hits the ground (briefly), I’m okay with continuing the play.

If the ball is rolling around on the ground, the play should be called dead, but I give referee’s the opportunity to exercise discretion here. If the coach is looking to get an un-athletic 2nd-grader a chance to snap the ball, we can all take a breath and allow a certain level of error in that process.

In the event the play is called dead because of a bad snap, the ball is returned to the original line of scrimmage.

Diving

A player may not dive head-first to advance the spot of the ball. It is, however, acceptable to jump for balls, spin away from defenders and dive to pull another player’s flag.

DEFENSE

Rushing the Passer

Starting behind the five-yard buffer, defensive players have a free rush of the passer. Players may not “bull-rush” (or run directly into) the offensive player blocking them.

Bull-rushing will be assessed as a five-yard penalty and the offense replays the down.

Interceptions and Fumbles

There are no fumbles. A fumble immediately causes the end of the play and the offensive team retains possession.

Interceptions are live and may be returned.

Tackling

Most tackles that happen are incidental.  

If a defensive player tackles a ball-carrier within a reasonable degree of the flow of the game, he will be assessed a five yard penalty from the end of the play.  

If it is an egregious tackle, the player will be assessed a personal foul and removed from the game for three plays.  The offensive team will be given an automatic first down after the five-yard penalty.

Personal Fouls

A referee, at all times, has the right to issue a personal foul penalty. A personal foul is an automatic first-down after the five-yard penalty and the offending player is removed from the game for three plays,

Note: These should almost NEVER be called. A personal foul is the “nuclear option” in this league.

Overtime

In the event of overtime, each time will be given a possession from the 20 yard line (facing in). They will have four downs to score. The teams can then go for one or two on the extra point.

In the event of a double-overtime, the scoring team must attempt a two-point conversion.

In the event of a triple-overtime, each team will be given a single play from the 10 yard line. If they score, they will then attempt a two-point conversion. Teams will be given a single-play attempt again in fourth overtime, after which the game will be announced a draw.

Lastly

There is no complaining to the referees!

Problems should be brought directly to the director, Evan Mulrooney