House Football: Revitalized?

House Football at Lawrenceville has been an athletic institution since 1860, making it the oldest active football league in the United States. Over its history, through winning rivalry games or participating as an active member on an athletic team for the first time, House Football has been the source of House bonding and forming lifelong memories for Lawrentians.

House Football at Lawrenceville has been an athletic institution since 1860, making it the oldest active football league in the United States. Over its history, through winning rivalry games or participating as an active member on an athletic team for the first time, House Football has been the source of House bonding and forming lifelong memories for Lawrentians. In an unusual year for the School, Covid-19 has halted competition for interscholastic sports this fall and has completely rearranged the athletic schedule. Despite unideal circumstances, House Football has still managed to yield some unexpected positive outcomes. With increased participation on account of the switch to flag football, perhaps Lawrenceville should look towards that option as a better way of capturing House spirit for years to come.

Lawrenceville House Football is the oldest high school football league in the country, but despite its historical importance to the School, participation in the sport has decreased over the years. Recently, many Houses have been forced to combine to field full teams, as there have not been enough players to form individual House teams. Multiple factors contributed to this downward trend, and the risk of injury inherent in tackle football is certainly a big one. In particular, that risk has often dissuaded offseason varsity athletes, who would have liked to play House Football otherwise. For this fall season, the Athletic Department resolved to change House Football from tackle to flag in order to meet Covid-safe policies. While this has disappointed some students, overall participation has risen dramatically, largely because flag football is safer than tackle.

As a result, each Circle House has sufficient players to play seven on seven, and some Houses even have enough players for a full “A” and “B” team. All of this means that the rival Circle Houses can compete for their trophies, each of which has its own legacy and history and is of great import to the Houses and House football’s tradition. In recent years, teams that have combined Houses were prevented from competing for their respective trophies at the end of the season. The rivalry game for a trophy is the most important and memorable part of the term, the culmination of the team experience, so it is a shame for House football players to be deprived of the occasion. “Maybe it’s not as entertaining as before with all the hitting, but what matters is that we get guys to come and play. I’d rather play for the Crutch [the Kennedy vs. Hamill award] every year than have to combine teams and not be able to play for the trophy,” said Kennedy prefect and former House Football player Dare Rolfe ’21.

Another upside to flag football is that it creates a more equal playing field. In the past, bigger players could easily dominate the game, running over and throwing smaller players aside. Smaller athletes would often get tackled before they even have the chance to make a play. This term, physicality is no longer a requirement for success, giving players of different sizes the opportunity to be major contributors to their teams. Not to mention, House sports, while competitive, are intended to provide sporting opportunity for all participants, which tackle football does not facilitate as easily as flag football.

Cleve Coach and Math Teacher Etienne Bilodeau noted that, on the whole, House Sports in the Circle and Crescent have always been a great way for Housemates to bond and spend time around each other. However, in the past, the risk of injuries, amalgamation of Houses when forming teams, and rules of the game have prevented some Lawrentians from enjoying the full extent of the experience.

In summary, the switch to flag football has appeared to have breathed new life into House football. If Lawrenceville wants to maintain the sense of Circle House spirit and community House football is intended to instill, the School should consider a departure from tackle football and the permanent installation of flag football.

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