We’ve officially been back from USFTL Nationals 2016 event in Plant City, Florida for a couple weeks now, and can already say we’re incredibly excited to get back next year. There’s nothing like being a part of the largest flag football tournament in the world. Over 410 teams were represented this year, spread out over a sprawling complex with so many fields it was hard to even get to them all. We thought it would be fun to give you guys a glimpse into our world for the weekend, being a sponsor and playing in the event ourselves, as to what we thought and where we see it going in the next couple years!
The FFWCT Team Behind-The-Scenes
We took a crew of 7 from multiple cities (Dallas, Indianapolis & Sacramento), including 1 photographer, videographer, social media specialist and general help from FlagSpin for the sponsor tent and setup and arrived in Orlando the Wednesday before the event. The Dallas team got in first, and immediately jumped into our rented Tahoe and trekked over 3 hours down to Miami to pick up 50+ cases of the new-to-the-US Keeper energy drink, and turned around to drive back to our house in Davenport that night. We did make a pit stop at West Palm Beach for some amazing local seafood at The Whale’s Rib which we highly recommend if you’re ever in that part of town!
Later that evening, we met up with the rest of our crew and hit up the new Disney Springs late-night dining and shopping district to grab some grub and enjoy the evening. If you didn’t get a chance to head over to Disney or Universal Studios (about a 45 minute drive from Plant City), you really need to make it over there one night or for a full day, as it has way more to offer than I expected having not been there in over 10 years myself. Thursday was pretty much all setup at the fields and coaches meeting, getting ready for the long weekend ahead!
Friday the tournament began, and by tournament I mean 5 straight hours of downpours and us just trying to keep our tent from collapsing in on itself from all the rain. I’m sure it was just as much fun out on the fields, but luckily by early afternoon everything had cleared up and the fields seemed to hold up really well all things considered (in Texas, the entire complex would have been a mud pit by 10am…). The next two days were a whirlwind, running around trying to get photos, videos, post highlights to social media, and handing out all kinds of sponsored goodies, everything from the Naked Infusions Salsa which were a big hit, to Smarty Pants Vitamins packets, Mouthpieces, Raw Revolution Protein bars, even some Good Clean Love (aka LUBE)….pretty much everything you guys asked for and more.
At one point, we had to send our crew into Tampa to pick up what amounted to an entire Tahoe full of Caramel Apple Premium Puff Corn…over 12,000 bags of it in full, where we promptly dumped it in the middle of the main concourse since we had absolutely no idea how we were going to give it all away, yet somehow there wasn’t a single bag left by the end of the tournament…we’d say the sponsors were all a big hit. Cherrish cherry juice and KT Tape were out there as well with their own tents and products along side Savage who was selling the official apparel for the tournament. Saturday was gorgeous and the best day of the event, with the most people and a ton of action. Sunday started out about as bad as it could get for us sponsors, with 40+mph gusts of wind taking down all the sponsor tents, but luckily we’d already given out almost everything we brought from sponsors so it all worked out in the end!
After the tournament ended, we spent the next day relaxing and drove into Tampa to see some of the sites, ending up at St. Petersburg beach before heading back in for the day, ready to hit up Universal Studios the next day in Orlando. One of the best things about playing in Plant City was its proximity to both Tampa and Orlando, and I highly recommend anyone who travels down for next years event to atleast spend 1 day or night heading over to Tampa and/or Orlando to check out Disney/Universal or the newer nightlife they have there to offer! Overall it was an amazing time, and one we’re planning on doubling or more with even more free stuff for each of the stops on the tour and for Nationals again next year!
2016 USFTL Nationals Results
As far as the event itself went, it was filled with top teams from all over the country, finishing with 31 champions from the 4 / 5 / 7 / 8 / 9 man divisions with men’s, coed, women’s and youth, contact and non-contact all represented….huge. You can find the final results of the tournament here, along with team photos from all the winners so check it out! There were some surprises and plenty of top teams backing up their claim as the best in the world as well. Check out the highlight video below for some of the top plays we were able to capture!
While there were some amazing plays we were able to get on video, we only had a very small crew of 1 photographer and 1 videographer along with our social media guy to cover 30+ fields and 400+ teams over 3 full days, so we only caught a fraction of the good stuff! Next year we plan to remedy this in a big way now that we know better what to expect and what is needed! The event itself should be much bigger next year, with around 50 teams turned away due to late registrations this year, on top of some changes we’ll talk about next that should be big in enhancing the event all around!
USFTL Nationals 2017 – Looking Forward
There are some big changes and improvements planned for USFTL Nationals next year, to be held on January 13-15 (MLK Weekend) of 2017. For all the good things the tournament brought about, this was a new location for them so there were a couple kinks to be ironed out that will be a full go next year. The parking was one of the biggest complaints we heard, mostly due to the parking lot construction not being completed on time which will be remedied next year that should hold plenty of space for everyone. Another was some referee complaints in some of the newer formats, such as 5on5 non-contact, where we’ve been assured there will be some intense training leading up to next years event specifically to make sure everyone is on the same page at every division. There are some possible rule changes as well, such as adding pitches and throwbacks to the 5on5 non-contact division, pre-snap penalties not leading to a loss of down (too many 3rd and short false starts or delays of game leading to a turnover versus 5 yard penalty), and others to be announced in the next couple months!
Another big change which will be exciting for anyone who has a middle school or high school teenager involved in 7on7 football (touch, not flag) is the addition of multiple divisions to add in a National 7on7 Championship format! The USFTL stands for the United States Flag and Touch League, and with the help of 7on7zone.com and other partners they’ll be bringing in a new format to add to the ranks! This may be one of the first times a tournament has featured both flag football and youth 7on7 formats in the same tournament and will be a great way to see different aspects of the game, involve new sponsors, players and teams for one HUGE event!
They’ve set a goal of 500+ teams next year, so you better go ahead and put this event on your calendar for next year and expect it to be bigger and better than ever! We would love to hear what you thought, what you’d like to see and anything else you have in the comments below so let us know!