What Flag Football Meant to Me

A former Kid Reporter for Sports Illustrated Kids shares five life lessons from six seasons of flag football

Griffin Clark

| 4 min read


When I started playing flag football at 9 years old, I had little idea how much I would grow to love the game. I joined my hometown league, the East Greenwich Flag Football League, in 2014 – its inaugural season. That year, I learned how to throw and catch and how to properly run a play – and a whole lot more.

Every year that I was eligible to play, I was out there. Six seasons went by before I aged out. When we won the championship my final year, it marked a perfect end to one of the most formative experiences of my childhood. I’d played with dozens of teammates and several amazing coaches. And those lessons I learned on and off the flag football field stay with me to this day.

Here are five.

Every coach is unique.

Each coach I’ve known has a distinct personality, a different level of patience and their own approach to the game. Having a new coach every season taught me an important skill – adaptability. Learning how to be adaptable has served me well in everyday life, whether I am beginning another year at school or starting at a new job.

Winning is just one piece of it.

The coaches with the greatest impact on me were the ones that taught us skills beyond the game.

These coaches acknowledged that in youth sports, there is more to the game than simply winning. My favorite coaches taught this both directly and indirectly. One showed me, at a young age, how to be a good sport after wins and losses, by not only teaching the skill but actually demonstrating it while coaching. I also learned how to work well as a team and to be a better communicator.

Everyone deserves a chance.

Each new season, I was always eager to be quarterback. I liked that the quarterback got to call the plays, and I wanted to put myself in that leadership role.

My coaches would typically allow everyone to try each position, though, and I understood, to be a fair teammate, that I needed to step back sometimes. Each coach had a process, and everyone deserves a shot. 

What matters is what you do together.

In one of my first seasons, our coach introduced many fundamentals of the game to us at the outset. Then, we created plays as a team in practice and determined what worked. Another even encouraged us to bring our own ideas for plays to practice.

Getting us involved with the plays was far more effective than coaches who drew up the plays and called them themselves. I always felt more invested in the team by having a say in what we did. When a coach gave the team some freedom, it taught us how to lead. Since I naturally wanted to lead, it meant a lot.

Never take the fun for granted.

Perhaps the most lasting lesson I learned was to not take moments like playing flag football as a kid for granted. Now that my elementary and middle school days have passed, I think back and appreciate just how much fun I had out on the field. In fact, the only thing at stake was to have fun.

Fun is one reason why the East Greenwich Flag Football League has grown in participation every season (from 50 kids in 2014 to more than 500 today). And it’s also why I still officiate for younger age groups. Since I was familiar with the league, the transition into officiating couldn’t have been easier. I see the way the game is enjoyed by players, coaches, and families alike and I am thrilled to see it continue on with each new season.

Griffin Clark is a media relations intern for Providence College Athletics and former Kid Reporter for Sports Illustrated Kids. 


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