Special Olympics' state flag football event comes to Peoria this weekend
A large sporting event will attract participants from all across Illinois to Peoria this weekend.
After a one-year hiatus brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Special Olympics Illinois state flag football tournament returns to Greater Peoria.
“We’ve got about 300 athletes from all around the state that qualified for our state flag football championships,” said Nate Henry, director of State Championships for Special Olympics Illinois. “So we have 33 teams, we have about 90 coaches coming to town, and all their families as well, because it is a two-day event.”
The tournament moves to the Louisville Slugger Sports Complex this year, with the Avanti's Dome in Pekin unavailable after being damaged in a June storm. The opening ceremony is set for 8:30 a.m. Saturday, with bracket play competition to follow.
Henry said teams from 11 different Special Olympics regions in Illinois will participate. Each team is guaranteed to play at least two games.
He said flag football is a growing activity for Special Olympics.
“Our last season was 2019, where we had about 200 athletes or even fewer than that,” said Henry. “So what's great is not only are we back, but we're bigger than we were. That's what we're trying to do, get our game out to more athletes.”
Henry said anyone interested in volunteering at the tournament is welcome, even people who may not be familiar with flag football.
“We'll teach you everything you need to know,” he said. “So, we encourage you to come by and check it out, whether you want to run a time clock or whatever the case may be. Or, if you just want to come watch, that's great, too.”
Spectators must sign the Special Olympics Illinois COVID Code of Conduct Form that can be found on their website at www.soill.org.