How one boy’s flag football experience grew his self-esteem

By Jon Buzby | Posted 4/13/2018

My son’s friend had never participated in an organized sport and was very tentative about doing so. However, after several games of flag football in our backyard where we focused on throwing properly, catching with your hands, running with a purpose and hiking techniques, his confidence was high enough to give the sport a try this spring.  

I’m happy to report he has gone from barely being able to throw a football, let alone catch one, to reaching out and snagging (with his hands only) his first reception and sprinting for a first down. The look on his face when he tossed the ball to the ref and sneaked a peek over to his extended family rooting him on was priceless.  

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A few plays later, he took a handoff, bounced to the outside and came within inches of scoring, his grin alone worth more points than a touchdown would have been.

He’s not the star of the team, and he knows it. Best of all, he doesn’t care. He’s proud of his regular role as the team’s center with opportunities to catch and run the ball sprinkled in between. 

He overcame fears and worries and doubts. He found success, not only as a player, but as a teammate. What can’t be measured on a stat sheet is how his self-esteem gained on the gridiron this season might lead to future achievements off it when it comes time to try something new.

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I already see the impact of those consistently perfect snaps and occasional catches, runs and pulled flags. He no longer comes over to our yard dejectedly telling me he isn’t very athletic. Instead, he arrives and immediately asks where the flag belts are so we can play, announcing, “And I’ll be the center, of course.” 

I’ve written a lot of stories over the years about kids finding success in sports at much higher levels than this flag football league. Yet this is one of my all-time favorites. 

It’s a story about watching a kid go out of his comfort zone and try something new. It’s about not just joining a team, but becoming a valuable member of it.

Best of all, his story has only just begun. 

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 Jon Buzby has been involved in and writing about youth sports for the past 30 years, originally as a coach and board member with his now-adult son and most recently "just as a dad" with his 8- and 10-year-old sons. Jon is an award-winning writer and his latest book, “Coaching Kids Made Easier,” is available on Amazon. Send comments or future blog topics you'd like to see to and follow him @YouthSportsBuzz on Twitter.