Sunday, August 23, 2009

'tis the Season - for Football

Last fall Brandon played football for the first time. Boys his age, second and third graders 7 and 8 years old, played flag football: no pads, no helmets and no tackling. Instead each player wore a belt with a ribbon attached to each side. When an opposing player pulled a "flag" off your belt, you were out of the play. Most of the boys wanted to participate in the game, but some were not interested in learning and appeared to regard this as an escape from doing their homework.

This year at 9 years old, Brandon moved up to the B League where the boys are fourth and fifth graders. Over one hundred boys are participating. This year they're wearing helmets and pads and they're tackling. One of the first things the boys learned was how to hit and not be hurt yourself doing it. Another was how to tackle properly to avoid injuring that player. They have also had it emphasized that they must work together as a team.

Most of the boys have their heads in the game this year. Brandon's dad used to play football, and Matt has encouraged Brandon and worked with him so that he knows the importance of learning the plays and then practicing their execution. The other night Brandon was going through the drill for his position as quarterback, and since Matt was not home yet, Brandon asked Dawn to work with him. He'd tell her what the play was and where she should run. After a couple tries, he asked her to stop running in slow motion. She replied that she's a little older and bigger than his teammates and she was going as fast as she could.

After three weeks of two-hour three-nights-a-week practices, the youth football Kick-Off Classic was held at the community's football stadium under the lights Saturday evening. Opposing teams were paired and, as each came on the field in uniform, first the cheerleaders and their coaches then the players and their coaches, all were introduced. Then play began. Each team was allowed to execute ten plays against their opponent.

It was great to see the boys actually concentrating and working together. Of course there were fumbles and missed plays, but there were some well executed endeavors as well. Brandon passed off the ball without dropping it and the ball carrier held tight and gained some yardage. Brandon kept the ball in one play and managed to gain several yards before he was tackled. He also threw a pass (that was caught!) and the runner made more than first down yardage. They also seemed to understand their assignments when they were on defense.

In less than 20 minutes I made myself hoarse yelling in excitement. Brandon doesn't give any indication that he may tire of playing, so I'm going to have to invest in an air horn or cowbell if I'm going to have any voice after a real game.

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