Ultimate football, ulterior motive: Montreal Alouettes teach non-contact sports to children
Julian McKenzie, CTV Montreal
Published Saturday, February 3, 2018 7:00PM EST
In a special lesson from the pros with the Montreal Alouettes, the students at Academie Sainte-Anne in Dorval are learning how to – safely – get their heads into the game.
But there’s one key thing missing from today’s scrimmage: the contact.
This week, the Alouettes launched their Ultimate Football Tour, where the team will visit schools and YMCAs across Quebec promoting a non-contact brand of football for kids.
The latest initiative was unveiled in front of the school’s fifth and sixth graders, young sports enthusiasts with developing brains that are particularly vulnerable to rough play.
This is where ultimate football comes in: a hybrid, non-contact alternative to football, and a safe introduction to the sport for elementary age children.
“By mixing ultimate Frisbee and football – which is what ultimate football is – you’re not getting into the tactics of football,” explained Alouettes President and CEO Patrick Boivin. “You’re not complicating things for the kids – you’re making things simple.”
Ultimate football’s rules are similar to ultimate frisbee: once a player has the ball in his or her hands, they are unable to move forward and can only pass the ball to their teammates. If a player drops the ball, possession then goes to the other team.
“You’re making them run, catch the ball, throw the ball,” Boivin said.
“[The] objective is to get everybody a touch on the ball, because one person catches it, and if they go straight, you’re not going to get tackled – you’re going to get touched,” Alouettes defensive end John Bowman explained.
Bowman was joined by four other Alouettes players: SJ Haidara, Mikael Charland and Jean-Samuel Blanc, were also in attendance at Tuesday’s event.
Each player led drills and scrimmages with the children – activities that Boivin feels will help the franchise reconnect with younger fans.
In Quebec, thousands of young players have dropped out of football because of the safety risks. Even the pros are taking steps to improve safety – the CFL banned full contact practices last September.
But selling the game doesn’t mean pretending there’s no risk, Bowman said, because there is.
And the children seem to be aware of the fact.
“I had a concussion recently, and it’s really hard because you can’t do anything,” one student told CTV Montreal. “It hurts your head to concentrate. It’s very easy [to injure]. It’s one of the most fragile parts of the body.”
The Montreal Alouettes will be touring 65 schools and YMCAs until May 1 -- 30 days before their first preseason game of the year against the Ottawa Redblacks.