Coaching Flag Football

Photo by Kampus Production on Pexels.com

Alas, nothing lasts forever. Seasons change. We had a nice extended summer in these parts, but now it seems like things are returning to normal. November is bringing colder temperatures. I’ve had to scrape my windshield before taking The Oppresses and The Boy to school.

There are other seasons, of course. Sports seasons. As you may already know, are a part of our family’s schedule and routine. If I’m lucky, I will coach a team. This gives me a chance to spend some more time with my children and try to teach them something and help them out.

This season gave me another chance to be on the field with The Boy and a few other children. I was an assistant coach for the flag football season. We had a lot of raw talent on our team. We had kids who wanted to play, kids who wanted the ball. We had kids who didn’t understand there were five players on the field and just one ball to go around.

A football on the ground during a sunny day.
Another flag
football season

In addition to our needing to explain to the gridiron greats how to share the football, we also needed to temper some of the players’ enthusiasm. For instance, if we were about to throw the ball, some of our own players would shout, “Pass!” as the play started. We loved the enthusiasm, but the head coach and I thought it would be a good idea to “surprise” the other team when it came to what play we were going to run.

Of course, there was no evidence to support this, but don’t question a kid’s gut.

Luckily, we were able to convince players to surprise our opponents. Other challenges for us included kids who wanted the ball. Again, rules called for only one ball per team and there were five players on the field. The head coach did a great job of spreading the ball around. Some players were more patient than others. Some waited their turn. Some players wanted to know how much longer they had to wait before their turn to run or pass the ball. Some players were certain that others were getting more turns than they were. Of course, there was no evidence to support this, but don’t question a kid’s gut.

Practice was fun. We had to remind some kids we were playing flag football and not tackle football. Some kids thought it was fun and cool to maybe tackle or physically block (totally against the rules). This was fun until they were the ones getting tackled or blocked, then it was mean and people were breaking the rules.

Sometimes there was a little confusion when a play was being run. Sometimes kids would run into each other, or trip over someone or something. Again, some were convinced people were trying to sabotage them. Balls were thrown or spiked. I jump in with my coaching experience and expertise and ask what’s wrong. Does it hurt and have a temperature? Kids are absolutely belligerent as they fill me in on the unwarranted attack on their person. It’s wrong and people should be punished. Our innocent victims demand satisfaction. I ask if we should hand out an equally harsh punishment for the accident that occurred when the victim ran into someone on the previous play. They try to hid their smile as they are reminded of what happened earlier, but they can’t and they go back to the huddle.

We try to make sure everyone has a chance to play every position. One assistant coach spent the entire game tallying plays and making sure everyone got in and got ample rest. My job was to make sure those who were on the sidelines were ready to play when their turn came. Some were ready. Sometimes someone was at the concession stand or going to their parents for a drink. The water bottles were on the sidelines, but they were convinced the parents had better drinks.

It was a good season overall for everyone. The players hopefully learned a few things about playing as a team. The coaches hopefully learned something about patience and working with kids. The Boy and I spent some time together driving to and from practices and games. He got a chance to see his friends again outside of school. I got to talk to some more adults. Everyone played and everyone had fun. My head coach gave a gift card to me and the other assistant at the end of the season, so some retail therapy to Dick’s Sporting Goods will be in order very soon. We all get to recover in time for a new season and new challenges.

Kids adjusting their uniforms and getting ready for a flag football game.
Ready for action.

Local New England Beers 🍻

All of us have been busy. Every week seems to be another episode of dividing and conquering. This fall has us dealing with one cross-country schedule and two different football schedules. One for a flag-football player and another for a cheerleader.

I had The Oppressed one weekend for a football game near the Rhode Island state line. We needed to make the drive back home but I, being the wise parent, thought we should stop somewhere first to get something to eat. The Oppressed agreed and we decided to stop in a nearby place for breakfast. This place was in Rhode Island and, as a personal rule, if I am in a different state, I have to stop somewhere for some local beer. I feel this is the best way to familiarize myself with the ways and customs of the people in the state I am visiting.

Derivative Pale Ale from Rhode Island.

My selection was the single-hopped pale ale (6% abv) from Derivative, a creation of the Proclamation Ale Company of Warwick, RI. I liked this beer. Usually I like IPA’s to be a little stronger, but this one did the trick. Derivative delivers a nice IPA that’s not too hoppy. If you like IPA’s but sometimes feel a little overpowered by it hoppiness, this is for you.

There was another time the open road called me. This time it was to Maine to visit family. While in the Pine Tree State, I grabbed some of the locally brewed offerings. My selection was another IPA, not because it’s may favorite, but because this seemed to be all the store was offering that day. I walked out with a Pulp Truck IPA (6% abv) from Marsh Island Brewing.

Marsh Island’s
Pulp Truck

This was a well-balanced beer. In other words, you’re not overpowered by the hops. It’s also not too strong. You can have a couple of these while sitting down with friends at lunch and still be able to drive home.

I was hoping to sample just one IPA and maybe something different from the second brewer, but this was what these nice people had to offer. Small brewers can only make so much, and I’m sure it’s difficult to brew many kinds simultaneously.

Mr Giggles from Foulmouthed

Pulp Truck wasn’t the only beer I grabbed while I was in Maine. I also came home with a Mr. Giggles Golden Strong (10%) made by FoulMouthed Brewing. I like strong beers, but not beers so strong all you taste is alcohol. This was not one of those beers. In fact, It didn’t taste like a 10% abv beer at all. I’m not saying it wasn’t strong, it was. But if you’re someone who doesn’t like a beer because it may be too strong for you, this is one you might be able to drink. It’s a smooth golden ale, not bitter. It’s not too carbonated and it smells like an ale. Some strong beers will overpower you when you bring it up to your nose. Again, this isn’t one of those beers. Another great thing about this beer is that money from your purchase will support the National Alliance on Mental Illness Maine (NAMIMAINE).

If you like beer, you should try a new brewer, especially a small one. These people live nearby, your helping the local economy and helping people in the area support their families. You’re drinking good beer and supporting the town. Good for you. 🍻

Fundamentals of Basketball (Shooting Baskets)

The Boy has taken a liking to basketball. This is only natural as one of the Gaggle plays, watches, breathes, and lives basketball. The Boy tends to want to do things older children do, especially the older ones living with him.

I jump in a game sometimes. Sometimes, I will just wait under the hoop and get the rebound and pass it to someone. God forbid someone gets a rebound nowadays. The Gaggle will try a shot and sometimes I will call out “Miss!”. The ball hits the rim and falls to the ground. No basket. The Gaggle looks at me because my powers caused him to miss the shot. I never knew I had this power and now I think I have the perfect reason to get free tickets to Celtics games.

Basketball really isn’t my thing. Brave Daddies, Brave Mommies, and other loyal readers know this already. When I started writing for newspapers, I addressed the shortage of hockey writers in the department. It was cold in the ice rinks, but people wanted to know what was going on with the renegades of the rink. I gave up heated gymnasiums and climate-controlled fieldhouses in order to deliver the scores and the stories behind those scores in unheated hockey rinks. You’re welcome.

I’ve gotten into basketball ever since the Gaggle had taken a liking to it. I was at basketball game cheering for him and the rest of the team. I offered whatever advice I could after the game. I asked him about the game on the way home. We would talk a little and wait for the next game or practice.

A basketball laying on the ground.
A basketball on the ground because nobody wanted to get the rebound.

Back home, The Boy will join in on our games/shootarounds. The boy is still growing and the Boston Celtics aren’t scouting him yet. He likes to shoot from downtown. He can barely make the rim, but he insists he can do it. I offer some advice to him while he’s dribbling. Does he take any? Of course not. It reminds me of my basketball games with the boy named “Wilt”. “Wilt” would be double-or-triple-teamed. It didn’t matter. He was going to take it to the hole one way or another. I’d be wide open. Heck, he could even pass it to me, get some defenders off him, and he’d be open and under the hoop. Ready to lay one in. But, no. He knows what he’s doing. He can do it. Just like the children at my house. They won’t take advice. They won’t make a lot of baskets right now, but if you have a clause in your contract for rebounds, they just might make you wealthy.

I try to talk to The Boy about this. If he would move a little closer to the hoop, he could work on his dribbling, his footwork, his layups. I thought it would be a good chance for him to work on everything. As he gets older, his arms get stronger. He can move further away from the hoop as time goes on and work on those three-pointers he’s so obsessed with. But, no. He knows what he’s doing. I don’t know what I’m talking about, as usual. My advice is useless and I know nothing.

Another shot goes off the rim and down the street. More boys chase after it. Maybe next time, The Boy will move a little closer to the hoop. Then again, maybe not.

Follow my page on Facebook.

The Challenge of High School Sports

I’m not a runner. I never have been. One day… I almost lost to an offensive lineman. Running isn’t my forte. Now I have a child who wants to spend his time after school running. This is someone who lacks hustle when getting ready to leave the house, but who am I to step on one’s dreams?

Seasons come and go, especially in sports. When I was a child, seasons were divided into sports, school, and summer vacation. The sports seasons and their beginnings and ending remained when I moved from being a high school student to a newspaper reporter. I didn’t mind it, of course. I’ve enjoyed playing and watching sports my entire life.

I’ve taken that experience in sports and used it to teach my own children and those who have played under my tutelage during the baseball and football seasons. As a coach, I have served as a teacher, a motivator, and sometimes a therapist for those who watched someone step on their base or didn’t get the ball thrown to them on a certain play regardless of how many people were covering them. These are challenging times for me. Sometimes I have to explain to someone why they got pushed out of bounds. It’s because they had the ball and were running near the sidelines. Sorry, Champ. That’s how the game is played.

It’s not always easy, but then again, I’ve been watching sports long enough to figure a solution to the problem. That’s what I do. I fix things: game situations, strategies, bruised arms and egos. I find a solution and help the promising athlete back on their feet in on the field.

A runner completing a race.
Sports can be challenging… for the kids, too. Photo by RUN 4 FFWPU on Pexels.com

And then one of the Gaggle tells me they want to run cross-country. This threw me for a loop, especially when they originally wanted to play football. At least with football, I could offer a little advice. Cross-country? I get excited when I break the eight-minute mile. I’m not a runner. I never had been. One day at football practice in high school, I almost lost to an offensive lineman in the 40-yard dash. I had a baseball coach who told me to get the refrigerator out of my back pocket when I ran. I wasn’t fast. I’m still not fast. Running isn’t my forte.

A child's messy bedroom.
My organized children

Now I have a child who wants to spend his time after school running. This is someone who lacks hustle when getting ready to leave the house, but who am I to step on one’s dreams? Lucky for me, a friend of mine happens to be a runner. He was captain of the high school cross-country team. He beat me in every race and game we had. I’m not going to say if I let him win. We’re friends. No need to get into the past like that. Anyway, I sought his advice for running since I had none to give. He gave me some pointers that I passed along to the Gaggle. It should be interesting. This child will be running about three miles every day. He’s been excited about it. I haven’t dealt with high school sports in a while. I’m still getting back into it and figuring out captains’ practices (if any) and what the child needs in order to practice with the team (doctor’s forms, permission slips, CYA paperwork). There’s also the issue of making sure the child knows their schedule, when practice starts and ends. When and where the meets are. What they need for said practice and meets. I’m not worried. I’m sure they’ll be fine. They’re a teenager. What could possibly go wrong?

Reflections of Another Baseball Season

“The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings…”

Seasons inevitably change. Things come and go. That’s life. That’s the way it is. The end of one thing and the beginning of another gives us the chance to reflect on what was and what may follow.

The weather continues to get warmer and the school year is winding down. Both are reasons to be happy excited if you are a young man (or young lady). Unfortunately, we recently observed an ending: The end of the baseball season.

Baseballs laying on the grass.

At the level I coached this year, the focus was more on fun and learning than scores, winners, and losers. Therefore, at the end of our 2021 season, I look at the improvements each player made. The Boys of Spring came to me in the cool, damp days of March and April. I did what I could to fix holes in their individual swings and flaws in their fielding and throwing. I kept it as simple and basic as I could. I reminded them to keep their glove down on the ground. I told them to relax at the plate and don’t swing for the fences. Improvements were made during the season and I’m glad to have played a small part during the journey.

Children and adults on the baseball field.
Another deep conversation before resuming the game.

There were also the deep, stimulating conversations we had during the game. These usually consisted of, “I’m tired.” “Can we go home?” “I need water.” “I have to go to the bathroom.” We had eight players on our squad this year. Five or six of them wanted to play first base at once. A simple bunt down the third base line would have meant a sure double. Luckily our opposition wasn’t so baseball-savvy.

One child spent the whole morning asking when we’d be done. I told him we had two more innings. He responded, “NO!” I apologized and quickly amended it to three. Apparently, this was not the answer he was looking for either. Another was excited to learn we share the same birthday month. We are now officially “Birthday Twins”.

The complaint department handled grievances regarding the lineup. I always tried to make sure the same person didn’t hit first or last every time. Occasionally, one or two of the players would try to change the lineup. By “change”, I mean write his name down and no one else’s. Other methods of altering the lineup included running to the dugout and being the first to get his helmet and bat thereby superseding the written lineup. I called Rob Manfred to make sure this was indeed a rule. I’m still waiting for confirmation.

There were displays of strength such as boys seeing if they could throw the ball over the fence instead of at the intended target. There were boys running away from the ball. This was when I reminded them they had a glove to protect them. There were two runners on a base. I reminded them it was one at a time. The boys told me about school and Pokémon. I told them about Mel Ott and George Brett. I traded stories of school with the children and bourbon and scotch tips with my assistant coaches.

It was a season of fun and learning. We taught baseball and smoothed over bruised egos. I hope the children enjoyed themselves. Thanks to my assistants D and R for their help. Thank you to C, D, J, J, L, M, R, and W for their (unending) feedback on my coaching and showing me the ways I can improve upon myself.

And I think I inadvertently hit two or three batters. Sorry about that.

Players lined up at home plate after a game.
Waving good-bye to another baseball season.

Love for the Baseball Gloves

My birthday was earlier in the spring. There were some baseball-themed gifts on the table that had my name on them. My family knew my glove was needing some repair. I’m not sure how long I had the glove, but I was disappointed when I saw some lacings torn and needing attention.

One of my children saw the glove and heard me mention the need for a repair or replacement. I was presented with a glove repair kit. I had never repaired a glove before and I’m not one of those people who can just take something apart and put it back together. I’m one of those people who takes something apart, puts it back together and ends up with an extra part laying about after reassembly.

I did what I always do when I need to do something but lack the know-how…

Well, I got the kit. My glove needed repair and I had another game coming up. How can I teach children to not jump out of the way? How can I teach them the glove protects them? How can I demonstrate the glove is their friend if I don’t have a glove laced up, intact and on my hand to assist in the demonstration.

Again, I had never done this before and I wasn’t sure if I could. I did what I always do when I need to do something but lack the know-how: I went online to research the problem. I’d like to take this moment to thank YouTube’s DIRTY 30’s Leather & Lace for their tutorials. The videos I found on their page walked me through the process of fixing a glove and I know where to go if the need arises again.

A baseball glove and a glove repair kit.
Tools of the trades. Baseball and glove repair.

That need did arise. When speaking to a parent after a game, I noticed the player’s glove was pulled apart and needed a new lacing around the fingers. I took the glove home. Again, I needed something to reference for the job. After finding the right source, I was able to stitch the glove back up. The same thing happened a few days later. This one was a little harder. It was a small glove and not one you might repair. I tried it and a fielder has a glove that’s as good as new and his parents saved a little money by not having to go out and find another glove.

That’s the point. Instead of having to buy another glove, I hope by re-lacing these gloves, I’m able to help the players get another season or two out of them. I also hope I’m saving the parents some money. Instead of having to run out and buy another glove, fixing a perfectly usable glove saves them money and a trip to the store. Plus, with one or two baseball players in my family, I’m learning something that is sure to come in handy again.

Little League, Big Dreams

Batting is a miraculous thing. Players who were tired and dying of thirst are suddenly filled with newfound life and energy. Boys who couldn’t stand up are suddenly men with vigor and gusto who are ready to grab a bat and face danger.

A baseball and baseball glove.

The sun is shining. The weather is getting warmer. Birds are singing. It means baseball season is arriving again. It also means a new crew of children to whom I will pass on my love and knowledge for and of the National Pastime.

It also means trying to nail down the names of six or seven new players, which usually means an afternoon of, “Hey!” since I need to get a message across to somebody fast. I might need to bring somebody’s attention to a ball thrown in their direction or wake somebody up who is not paying attention while they are on base and another baserunner is heading for that base. Who knows with this crew?

What I do know is this: There are some future managers on this team. I have a bunch of players who aren’t much for listening, but they love to remind the others where they need to be. They also like telling me who has already played first base and they haven’t hit yet.

Let’s start with my team on the field. The Boys of Summer take the field. Three of them are standing on first base. One might be catching. One or two might be somewhere else on the infield and ask if it’s alright where they are. My first order of the inning is to convince two of the boys on first that they need to play somewhere else. I usually tell them something like I can’t waste their arm at first base or I need someone with their speed somewhere else on the field. Something motivational that will convince them to move from the prized first base. This usually includes a promise that they can play first base later in the game.

That’s done. Players are in position. I look around to see my crew and make sure they’re ready. One is making a sand castle. Two more are practicing ninja dropkicks on the grass. My teams usually include different players doing the same things every year. I just guess who it’s going to be doing what.

Sorry, Slugger. Rules are rules.

Now we’re ready. Players in position. One is looking back at the concession stand. They smell something. Burgers. Chicken fingers. French fries. I remind the player they need to face forward and get ready in case the ball is hit to them. The ball is hit. The fielder fields it and the ball goes sailing over the first baseman’s head. I take this opportunity to remind everyone on the field (again) that the object of the game is to reach the first baseman’s glove, not to show how strong they are. I tell them it’s alright. There are no girls around. They don’t need to show off their strength and can save that for recess the next day.

Children playing baseball.

Sometimes there will be two or three players chatting with each other in the middle of the game. Something urgent and compelling, I’m sure. These are Kindergartners and first-graders so I’m sure what’s being discussed is Earth-shattering. I break up the roundtables and direct the children’s attention to the man at the plate. I don’t need another player threatening to quit because they weren’t paying attention when the ball was hit to them and they took one on the leg or the arm. Our time on the field mercifully comes to an end and it’s our turn to bat.

Batting is a miraculous thing. Players who were tired and dying of thirst after 10 minutes on the field are suddenly filled with newfound life and energy. Boys who couldn’t stand up are suddenly men with vigor and gusto who are ready to grab a bat and face danger. I am met with “Can I hit?” “Is it my turn?” “When can I bat?” This is when I am reminded by numerous people who didn’t get the chance to hit first in any inning last time.

I give the order. This isn’t an actual “game” so it’s a different order every inning in order to make sure the same person isn’t hitting first or last every time. I give the order and, throughout our turn to bat, remind my men who is hitting next and who is on deck. I’m at home plate, sometimes; making sure the feet are where they should be, hands are positioned right, elbow bent. My player is relaxed and ready. I check his feet. I remind him of the batters box (I draw one so they know where to stand) and tell him to stay there and wait for the ball. Level swing. This is what I tell them. Bats go everywhere. Players swing at angles Trigonometry Professors have never seen before. Some players want to stand behind the plate. They draw a box where the catcher normally plays and, since there’s a box there, it’s perfectly alright for them to be there. I explain that’s not the way it works and they need to stand in a Regulation batter’s box. Sorry, Slugger. Rules are rules.

Sometimes I pitch to the budding baseball battlers. These boys are still learning how to hit without a tee, so I am careful and cautious when it comes to pitching. Sometimes, however a pitch goes awry and I hit a batter. I hate that. Not as much as the one who gets hit, but I hate it. I run to the batter, make sure they’re alright and we don’t need to amputate. He’s alright and, after some prodding and convincing from the parents, returns to the box to finish his time at the plate.

He makes contact. Infielders pile upon each other for a chance to get the ball and throw the ball. They can finally do something. The batter runs. I remind him to run the other way. He changes course. I remind him to run without the bat. He flings the bat. Suddenly, I’m Pepper Martin diving out of the way in order to avoid the incoming bat. I’m in my forties and I still have my agility.

The day comes to an end. We line up at home plate, walk past the other team, and say, “Good game.” No handshakes because of the ‘Rona. I end our session with some words of wisdom. Something to inspire the troops. The Boy and I head home where he tells me about what I need to improve on.

Super Bowl Fun and Parties

Last night meant watching the Super Bowl. It’s nothing new for my family. Wife and I have been watching football since we were kids and like most every other house in America, there is a ridiculous amount of food associated with the last football game of the year.

Last night’s experience was a different one for The Gaggle, who never watched football before, let alone heard of a Super Bowl Party. It was a learning experience from the opening coin toss to the final seconds, counting down, confetti everywhere, people holding up a trophy. Oh yeah, there was music at the halftime show, too.

The learning experience started with the opening coin toss. What was this about? Wife and I explain that this is how the game starts. A flip of the coin. Kansas City won the coin toss and elected to kick. What does that mean? It means Tampa will get the ball first and, when the second half starts, Kansas City will get the ball.

“The second half?”

“Yes. After Halftime, Tampa will kick the ball to Kansas City.”

“When is Halftime?”

“In the middle of the game. After the second quarter.”

“How many quarters are there?”

“Four quarters.”

The game finally starts. The first quarter progresses and Kansas City prepares to kick a field goal.

“What’s going on?” The Gaggle asks.

“The Chiefs have fourth down so they’re going to try for a field goal.”

“How many point will they get if they make it?”

“Three.”

Kansas City makes the field goal and kicks off to Tampa Bay. About five minutes later, Tampa Bay scores a touchdown.

“How many points is that?”

“Six.”

“Now what? They kick back to the Chielfs?”

“No. Tampa kicks an extra point.”

The children see the teams line up for the extra point. They ask if this kick will be worth three points like the last time. “No,” we explain. “This kick is only worth one.”

“The kick is less if you score a touchdown?”

“Yes.”

“And more if you don’t score a touchdown?”

“Yes.”

“That’s weird.”

We can’t really argue with that. The game continues. The children continue to indulge in the chips and pretzels and drink their tonic (We live in Massachusetts) without hearing any questions about how many have they had. Take it easy on that. Not tonight. The chips supply is depleting. The vegetable tray is practically untouched.

Halftime arrives. The children ask what happens now. We explain to them the teams will go to the locker room to figure out what they need to do in the second half and what the other side might do. Halftime for me means walking the dog, rotating the tires, checking on the cat, doing anything except watching the halftime show.

It’s snowing outside. Doggie and I are glad to be back indoors. She shakes off the cold and finds a spot in the room as the second half is already underway. The game continues. There is a play and, before returning to their respective huddles, two players start yelling at each other.

“Are they pumping each other up or swearing at each other?” a child asks.

“Probable swearing at each other,” Wife and I say.

The game winds down. Tampa Bay wins. The Oppressed is happy for Tim Brady. My wife, a Rob Gronkowski fan, is happy for Gronk. I just like to watch football. I’m happy I was able to watch the game. We clean things up as everything wraps up on television. I hear one of The Gaggle say how fun it was and they wish they could watch another football game. The heavens open up and I hear a choir of angels singing over our house. I wipe a tear away and thank the gridiron gods.

Fun With Flag Football

The Boy has moved on from baseball to flag football. This new experience has paired him with different friends from school and the neighborhood. So far, he seems to enjoy it. Then again, he’s up for anything but baseball right now.

I offered my help to the coaches if they needed it. They accepted. There are over 10 kids on the team who need help lining up, knowing when to run and stop running. Conversations on the sidelines get so intense that the kids don’t hear their names being called on to the field or being told to get off the field. That’s where I come in. My main job is to shout, “On the field!” or, “Off the field!” Coaching baseball has prepared me for this.

Like every other sport, football offers its unique challenges. Strategy is paramount. It’s important you don’t tip your hand to the other team so we try to shush the kid who yells, “Don’t forget I’m getting the ball!”

There are other things we need to work on. Focus is one of those things. After the quarterback takes the snap, they will sometimes hand the ball off. If the running back doesn’t have their attention stolen by something else happening on the field (an airplane, someone who looked like a classmate, a fly), that’s a small victory.

We also need to remind the children that there are more receivers than balls. This will come up when someone doesn’t get the ball thrown to them. They were wide open. The defender couldn’t catch them. Why didn’t the quarterback see them and throw to them. Their upset but a little encouragement in the huddle while they demand a trade or a new quarterback usually calms them down and allows them to refocus on the task at hand.

It’s been an interesting season, so far and we’ve won more games than we’ve lost. That’s always good. We stretch before practices and games so kids don’t pull a muscle or sprain anything. Other teams are running sprints and doing pushups. We don’t get into that. It may change if we see Bill Belichick scouting our team for any future players but that doesn’t seem likely.

Practicing Patience

When you’re coaching sports, you try to teach the kids a thing or two that they will be able to take with them. You hope it will help them in life, not just with their play. Sometimes I learn something from the kids. Sometimes you’re just glad practice ended without breaking a bone or losing an eye.

I need to remind the children that this is flag football. There is no tackling. I will say this to the defense who want to re-enact a scene from a Marvel Universe movie. I will also say this to a receiver who is swearing up and down that the pass was meant for them instead of the person who was standing in the path of said pass. Some people will want the ball and are willing to knock down anybody and everybody to get the ball, even if the person being knocked down is the actual intended receiver.

Sometimes we will spend some time running a play. Most of the time we are breaking up a pig-pile that occurred at the end of the play, not that their tackling the actual ball carrier. They just like to jump on someone and try to wrestle. There are some Kung Fu moves involved. Always a great thing when kids are wearing cleats. What could possibly go wrong?

So we go to the pile of budding gridiron gods and Marvel wannabes. We separate the offense and defense and line them up for the next play. Sometimes we need to calm a player or two down. Sometimes the person who needs to be calmed down is the instigator who thought it was hilarious to tackle or jump on somebody. It’s always hilarious until they’re the person who gets pushed or touched. Then they stomp their feet, curse the name of every person who was in the general vicinity, and declare their need for a water break. No one understands what was going on, including the coaches. They’re all jerks. The player hates all of them.

We let this person storm off. They’ll be back before the next play is over. We’ve seen this before. It’s time to run another play. The ball carrier runs for a touchdown. The offense follows the ball carrier into the end zone for a celebratory tackle and pig-pile. The defense runs to the end zone to join in. Why not? They were supposed to catch that ball carrier in the first place, anyway.