The apparel company’s Under the Lights co-ed league begins play in January.
Next month, local youths who want to play football under the Friday night lights won’t have to wait until high school.
Plant City is set to be the newest Florida location for Under Armour’s Under the Lights flag football program, which regional director Matt Raab said operates in 23 states and Canada. It will be the 22nd location in Florida and the 10th in the Tampa Bay area.
Raab said Plant City was chosen because it and its facilities — specifically Ellis-Methvin Park, where the games will be played — is exactly what Under the Lights looks for in a league host. He and commissioner Chad Warren had firsthand knowledge of Plant City’s field quality because their children have played lacrosse at the park. The city’s vibrant sports scene was icing on the cake, so to speak, and he added working with the Plant City Recreation and Parks Department has been a “very, very positive experience.”
“We saw Plant City as a great community to offer our sports leagues in,” Raab said.
Under Armour’s league is unique for several reasons, Raab said. It’s exclusively co-ed play broken up into four divisions sorted by which grade the players are in, rather than by their current age. The league is also receptive to requests from parents to put players on teams with their friends or play for specific coaches, and teams can be sorted based on which schools players attend, which other sports programs they are involved in, where they live or anything that could put players in groups with youths near them. There are unique discounts on Under Armour apparel and gear available for those involved with the league through codes redeemable online at BSNsports.com, a factory-direct equipment company that also offers custom team apparel. The league also provides Under Armour shirts and shorts for its players.
Games are almost exclusively played on Friday nights. They can be moved to Saturdays or Sundays in some cases, but for that to happen, Raab said there would have to be an issue that would completely prevent the league from using fields on a Friday night.
Players practice one hour before the start of their games and play four 10-minute quarters of 6-on-6 football with a four to six-second sack count. Team rosters consists of nine players so that as many youths get to play as possible. The divisions are Kindergarten through second grade, third through fourth grade, fifth through sixth grade and seventh through eighth grade. Divisional champions will get trophies and they, along with the runner-up teams, will be able to move on to Under Armour’s inaugural national championship tournament in late June, which will be held at the University of South Florida.
League play is tentatively scheduled to begin Jan. 12, though Raab said that may change based on registration numbers. The season runs through Feb. 23 and the divisional championship games will be held March 2.
Under the Lights does not interfere with the Recreation and Parks Department’s annual Optimist Youth Flag Football program, which runs from September through November.
Raab said Plant City’s reception to the league may influence future Under Armour program additions beyond flag football. For example, Plant City could be considered for the company’s Coast to Coast 3v3 basketball league if there is enough interest.