Coaching Flag Football

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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. 🍻

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.