By Lisa Cipriano
The summer is quickly winding down. But, that doesn’t mean that your kids’ activity level has to wind down with it.
One Chaldean entrepreneur developed a great way to keep both boys and girls active all year round through the all-American game of football.
Francis Meram of Rochester Hills started National Flag Football in 2002 with adult leagues because he, himself, wanted to play.
With more and more news reports of kids sustaining serious injuries from traditional tackle football, Meram saw “a huge potential for growth” with the much safer, no contact game of flag football and began offering kids programs in 2006.
Meram was correct with his prediction in that his National Flag Football program, based out of Bloomfield Hills, since has become the largest youth flag football program in the nation and is currently in 12 states and 130 cities. It hosts 50,000 kids a year, both boys and girls, ages 4 to 14.
“This is a much safer alternative to tackle football. Parents don’t have the concerns about injuries and concussions like traditional football,” explained Meram.
There is little to no contact with flag football. Instead of tackling, players wear flag belts and members of the opposing team pull off the flag to indicate a tackle.
“We started to really grow when the dangers of concussions in traditional youth football really started coming to light. Parents had big concerns and were looking for a much safer alternative. That’s when we decided to expand on a national scale,” Meram added.
Meram also attributes the growth of his National Flag Football to the way that they do business.
“Our success is also due to our organization’s structure. It’s very hands-on and we work very hard every single day to run the very best youth sports experience,” said Meram.
According to Meram, flag football is a big hit with Chaldean men as a great way to blow off steam, get some exercise, time with the guys and even network. But, Chaldean women traditionally have not participated in the sport. Meram sees that changing quickly in that his National Flag Football program is seeing a big increase in girls wanting to take to the field and play.
“It’s the awareness that girls can play, too. In fact, I’ve found that girls and boys are pretty even on the playing field. A lot of girls are even better than the boys. When you remove the contact, it’s really no different than girls and boys playing soccer together,” Meram explained.
Thanks to all of this growth and success, Meram is now operating his National Flag Football with two partners and more than 300 employees across the country including more than 40 full time employees at its Bloomfield Hills headquarters.
Enrolling your child in Meram’s National Flag Football costs $135 per season which is a relatively low cost compared to other youth sports. It also doesn’t require as much of you or your child’s time as with other sports.
“It’s a one day per week program. So, they practice for an hour and play their game right after. It’s really convenient for busy families because you don’t have to drive your kids around for practice,” explained Meram. “The only time that you would travel is if your child is in tournaments. The more competitive teams travel throughout the year. But, it’s not mandatory,” he added.
In this day and age of more sedentary lifestyles, video games and interacting mainly on social media, Meram recommends that all kids play some sort of sport for both activity and social skills.
“It teaches them team work and discipline while giving them structure and allows them to concentrate their energy outdoors as opposed to inside on electronic devices. It also teaches them to deal with adversity, whether it’s winning or losing. Sports teaches kids a lot of life’s lessons,” he said.
Sports is not only a virtue for Meram, you could say that it’s in his DNA. His brother, Justin, has the distinction of being the first Chaldean professional athlete in the United States. The Shelby Township native plays for the Major League Soccer club Atlanta United as well as the Iraq national team.
Both Meram’s parents were born in Iraq. He believes that his drive to succeed comes from them and his Chaldean upbringing.
“My Chaldean entrepreneurial spirit definitely plays into all of this. It’s taught me how to think outside of the box and always strive to build something bigger,” Meram explained.
In fact, at the age when most teenagers are finding their first job, Meram was taking it step further by starting his own business.
“I started my own cell phone business when I was 16. So, by doing that while in college for engineering, I already had a very good business background by the time that I was in my mid-20s,” said Meram. My Chaldean upbringing always taught me to push for more and start my own business,” he added.
Meram, of course, isn’t done pushing the limits yet. His engineering education always has him thinking of how to make things better and more efficient.
“I’ve just patented a new flag football belt that will revolutionize the game. It will be launched nationwide in January and be used in all of our programs,” he concluded.
His self-described Chaldean entrepreneurial spirit doesn’t stop there. Meram continues to work on expanding his National Flag Football to all 50 States so that all kids across the Nation have a chance to get outdoors, get some exercise and learn those important life skills while having safe fun on the football field.
National Flag Football is currently enrolling for its fall season. To get your child involved or learn more, go to nationalflagfootball.com or call 877-866-FLAG.