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RYFA adds football for special needs

CONYERS - The Rockdale Youth Football Association is trying to expand and make football enjoyable for everyone by starting a flag football league for kids with special needs.

"From the research I've done, I haven't been able to find anyone that has a flag football program for kids with special needs. I've researched a lot in miracle leagues," said RYFA president Shon Walker. "I've had to understand how to get things flowing with the kids. I haven't found anybody that was doing it."

RYFA and Walker's plan is to have four or five teams with around 10 players per team.

There are going to be 12 players, six offense and six defense, on the field at any given time.

"We want all the kids to play. If they don't play on offense they have to come in and play a complete series on defense," Walker said. "We will allow three or four coaches to be on the field to help get the kids lined up and pointed in the right direction."

While the age group they are looking for is wide, ages 5-21, Walker said that if they have enough players they will be able to keep the groups more age appropriate.

But if not, he feels that because there is no contact and with the coaches on the field everyone will have fun and avoid serious injury.

"It's just to give the kids a fun activity," he said. "We don't expect them to be competitive or demanding about contact."

Besides building a program for special need kids, RYFA is also hoping to increase their numbers with all of their football players in general.

While they have been averaging 250 players per year, Walker is hoping to make that number closer to 500 in both their inter-league program and their division one travel program.

One way they are planning to do this is by creating unlimited-weight teams for 7-8 and 9-10 year olds.

"Our ultimate goal is to have both weighted and unlimited football. Kids are getting bigger and stronger and we're losing those kids," Walker said. "But we still at the same time don't want to have the smaller kids competing with the bigger kids."

The group hopes to add unlimited weight teams in the 5-6, 11-12 and 14-and-under divisions.

In order to boost interest, RYFA has added a second field complete with a public address system as well as updating equipment.

RYFA is also making the games and the atmosphere at the park more family friendly in a living room type environment.

"It's where we all sit around as a group, make it a family atmosphere. Like back in the day when families would sit around as a group and watch TV or have dinner together," Walker said. "We want to have the same environment here.

"You may have a 10 (a.m.) game but you still want to stick around for the 4 (p.m.) game just because of the atmosphere."

Interested parties can register online at www.eteamz.com/ryfa until July 18.

In-person registration will be held every Saturday through Aug. 1, except July 4, from 10 a.m. until noon and on Tuesday, July 14 and Thursday, July 16 from 6-8:30 p.m.

For more information call 770-820-7932.