My son Magnus is 10 years old and loves football. I have been coaching his flag football team for the past 3 years. It is our favorite thing to do together. And our best bonding time.
This fall I was looking forward to another season of coaching with my fellow University of Wisconsin alumni Dr. Michael Brin and Josh Hunt, both of whom played football for the Badgers. Their sons Josh and Hudson are both great kids, great athletes, and we have had a really good team together. But by late summer we heard that the flag football program was cancelled. Boo.
Me, Mike, Josh and our boys, with pre-covid splits. Hudson is doing his funhouse mirror impression.
When we learned the flag had been pulled off the flag football season I contacted our local tackle football program. The league starts in 5th grade. But roster space permitting, they will also accept a few 4th graders if they meet the size requirement. Magnus is a sizable boy (a sizable boy they all say) and has met the 5th grade size requirement since 2nd or 3rd grade.
When the tackle program was green lighted, there was room for Magnus. So this fall, instead of playing flag football, video-game football or paper triangle football, he has been training in full cleats, helmet, mouthguard, shoulder pads and boy part protector.
Yesterday Magnus had his only scrimmage of the season. His 5th grade team played the program’s 6th graders. Which meant that Magnus, my 4th grader had his first full-contact tackle football experience against kids 2 years older than him. Because sometimes life just works out that way.
The highlight of the experience occurred as Magnus was playing defensive end. A 6th grade ball carrier broke past the line of scrimmage and began running down the field. Magnus turned in hot pursuit as if the kid had stolen his lunch money. Magnus caught up to the running back, leapt, landed on the 6th grader and brought him decisively to the ground. My friend Matt Joynt, who was standing a social distance from me said, ‘That looked like a lion jumping off a rock onto a gazelle.’
I instantly cheered my little 4th grader’s first-ever tackle. As did my wife Dawn and daughter Ava. It was an exciting moment for our family. And for a kid who just weeks earlier looked as if he would have a football-free fall.
After the scrimmage, when Magnus rejoined us, I asked him about his tackle. A broad smile lit up his face as he replied, “It was so awesome! I still feel like I have rainbows in my stomach!’
Life is short. Pursuit your interests, curiosities and passions like a lion chases a gazelle. Find the experiences that fill your stomach with rainbows. Pack your life with joy and fulfillment. We only get one chance to play this game. Between the opening whistle and the final tick of the clock, I hope you are flooded with positive feelings that are beyond your ability to articulate. That’s how you win this game.
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