Kensington: Flag Football More Than Fun and Games
About six years ago, three churches and a handful of young men set up a flag football league. The purpose of the league was more than just to have fun, it was going to be an outlet for youth to interact with adults, develop faith and grow as individuals.
About six years ago, three churches and a handful of young men set up a flag football league. The purpose of the league was more than just to have fun, it was going to be an outlet for youth to interact with adults, develop faith and grow as individuals. Today, six more churches and about 40 coaches and 180 players are in the league. Timoteo Flag Football has expanded from its Kensington roots, stretching to the Northeast, West Oak Lane, Frankford and Olney.
We didn't even have to advertise," explains Timoteo commissioner Nes Espinosa. Instead of using a traditional method to teach religion, Timoteo created an environment that made youths eager to participate. It reaches out to anyone, and there is plenty of interest in return.
Players are required to learn Bible verses before each game. Although not every player is a Christian or a member of one of the churches, the worship is a way to get kids on the right track. "We want to connect the kids with the coaches, the community and the churches," says Espinosa.
In addition to teaching religion, Timoteo takes pride in its ability to change the 13- to 18-year- old players for the better. "When I started I was a hot head," says player Tequan Harris. After a short while, Harris learned to control his demeanor and work with his teammates. "It was rough," he explains, "but it's been a great experience, I've changed a lot."
Such a transformation is what the leaders of Timoteo want. "It's taught youth to step up in leadership," says Espinosa. During the first few seasons, coaches played with the teens—getting the youth to step up was difficult. "We couldn't throw them into leadership positions," says Espinosa, "it was very hard." But as some kids gained confidence, others followed; "there's a ripple effect," explains Espinosa.
A prime example of Timoteo's influence is former player Bryant Keal. After joining the league, Keal was quick to throw blame on teammates and had trouble controlling his temper. With the help of Nes, regular worship and team-oriented practice, Bryant learned to be humble to other players. Eventually he became a team captain. He is currently in his second year at Kutztown University and returns to Timoteo to coach.
In order to play in the season (spring through summer), players must pay $20, which goes to jerseys, cleats and other league expenses. Teams practice twice a week and play one game a week at various local playgrounds. The idea is simple and the players are there. "Timoteo has the potential to replicate in other parts of the city," explains Espinosa.
In addition to the skills and lessons learned on the field, Timoteo treats its players to retreats and events. Multiple players have went on to college—a place seemingly intangible to some upon entering the league. The Simple Way, a local organization that helps in various community projects, awarded one player a full ride to a school.
"Being on the field is somewhat like a sanctuary," says Espinosa, "there's a culture of leadership and spirituality." Timoteo has provided an outlet for youth to grow, and done so in neighborhoods where the opportunity is oftentimes not there. Espinosa is excited for Timoteo, the league has expanded rapidly, and more importantly, it has not strayed from its original goal. The coach proudly proclaims, "we've empowered the youth."