Spring flag football draws nearly 400 players

Nearly 400 kids are taking part in this spring's Suntree Viera Youth Football League flag football season.

Tackle football season is over, but that doesn’t mean the Suntree Viera Youth Football League is in hibernation.

The SVYFL’s 2021 Spring NFL Flag Football season is in full swing with almost 400 players and 40 teams taking the field Saturdays at Viera Regional Park.

The main goal of the games, where every player is an eligible receiver, is pretty simple.

“It’s really just to have fun,” said Eric Vorndran, the league’s flag football director.

“We limit it to one practice a week, so the kids are playing games more than they’re practicing. We even encourage the coaches to do scrimmages in practice so they can have fun.

“It’s really trying to simulate what all of us used to do when we were kids on our own — just come out here and play. It’s just a little more structured than that.”

Games are played in a six-on-six format on a short field that measures 70 yards by 30 yards. With a maximum co-ed roster of nine or 10 players selected through a carefully organized draft process, there is a constant rotation to allow each player to get a good number of reps. There are six groups, including one for children ages 4 to 6 and another for high schoolers.

Each team is scheduled to play eight games over a six-week period (including two doubleheaders) leading up to a tournament Feb. 27. Teams will be seeded based on coach’s feedback. Medals will be awarded for first- and second-place teams.

“It’s all fun,” SVYFL president Shaun Hartman said. “The kids have a good time. We don’t keep score during the regular season. It’s more of a jovial, having a good time (atmosphere). Then, the tournament is when the competition happens.

“It works out pretty well. And the coaches get to practice and determine, ‘OK, cool, maybe I want to transition to tackle in the fall.’ ”

It’s not uncommon to see Viera High School football players helping out during the SVYFL tackle season. This year, a group of 7- and-8-year-old players are getting some help from a pair of guys who were in their shoes not that long ago.

Hartman’s son, Shaun, and Blake Stellmon, who were teammates on the SVYFL 12U tackle team this past fall, are getting a little taste of what coaching is like. They’re serving as offensive coordinators.

Cheerleading also is a big part of the program. Hartman said the league had 65 cheerleaders register for this year’s spring season under the direction of Taralynn Stewart. That is more participants than the league had for the fall.

The SVYFL, which had its most successful tackle season in program history in 2020, will open up registration for cheerleading and the 2021 tackle season in the first week of March. Registration for the fall flag football season is set to open in May.

“It’s a constant flow,” Shaun Hartman said. “That’s how we’ve grown this program substantially within the community.”