Saturday Night Lights

Jim Murphy brings fall football to Reading’s youth under the bright lights

On Saturday nights in Reading take a drive down Birch Meadow drive and you’ll find, under the beaming lights of John Hollingsworth Field, the spectacular play of some of Reading’s finest youth athletes playing flag football. At the center of it all is Jim Murphy, a familiar face to many in the Reading community, who has helped flag football gain a foothold in Town as parents seek out sports for their young players which minimize the risk of concussions and other injuries.  

Murphy, a Reading resident, was a Hall of Fame Quarterback at Reading Memorial High School and Northeastern University. He spent two seasons (1998, 1999) as a member of the New England Patriots. After his professional career, Murphy went on to be head coach of Merrimack College from 2003-07, where he led Merrimack to its first ever NE-10 Conference Championship. Murphy retired from college coaching in 2007 to focus on his family and youth development for kids. Murphy is married to his wife Allyson, and has three children: James, Jack, and Kate.

Murphy has focused his attention on Saturday Night Lights Flag Football, a program he started in 2012. The program has seen tremendous interest growing from 125 participants in its first year to over 700 presently, according to Murphy. In addition to Reading, where it is offered through Reading Recreation, SNL Flag Football is currently active in six other communities. This fall’s program wraps up November 5.

“The word has spread to surrounding towns,” says Murphy. “The enrollment for older kids is happening quite frequently as well as the girls divisions growing. They are doubling each year. All kids are really able to enjoy the program at many different ages.

“SNL is a program that provides an opportunity for boys and girls from grades K-8, to come out on a Saturday night in a fun atmosphere with music under the lights in a fast, competitive sport. Parents and coaches are able to keep things in perspective and of course have fun too.

“Coaches are all volunteers, moms and dads, who get very creative with play calling. They have a lot of fun with the games as well. The high school kids and football players are hired as coaches. They can make some money and be in a safe environment on a Saturday night. The youth of the community also look up to the high schools kids in the community. It’s a win-win for everybody involved.”

Other members of the SNL team’s organization, staffing, and execution include Carl McFadden, Murphy’s business partner; Nick Face, of Sports Zone 101; and Barry Irmer, Murphy’s brother-in-law. Murphy credits Face and Irmer for helping to make the program as successful as it is today, especially in the community of Reading.

You can catch the SNL Flag Football games each Saturday from 4:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at John Hollingsworth Field and the Birch Meadow Complex at RMHS. For more information about SNL Flag Football, you can visit their website or its Reading Recreation page.

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