When you think about football, Scarlett probably isn’t the first kid who comes to mind. But this composed, polite, introspective, and easy-going 8-year-old is in her second year playing flag football with the Champlain Valley School District Buccaneers and she loves it. Not only does she love it, but she is a huge asset to her team.
The Buccaneers are a Vermont flag football team with second to fourth-grade players who are typically between 7 and 9 years old. This is a wide age range for any sports team, but the Buccaneers build mentorship between new and returning players into their teaching which creates strong relationships that are reflected in their cohesive play on the field.
Flag football and touch football are both variations of traditional football.
In touch football, a player carrying the ball can be tagged out with a touch to disrupt play and attempt to prevent a touchdown. Flag football is where players wear two flags at the waist level on their uniform and try to detach an opposing player’s flags to stop play.
Tackling is prohibited in both touch and flag football which keeps player contact very limited. Regardless, the Buccaneers wear helmets, mouthguards, shoulder pads, jerseys, and cleats. Safety is paramount to their practice. Both of these lower-contact football options allow beginning and smaller players to learn the fundamentals of playing without the fear of being tackled. They make the game more accessible to players who could at some point be outstanding but who might be reluctant to play. In touch and flag football, there’s no reason all kinds of players can’t succeed and have a blast. The focus is on fun, team building, learning, and achievement.
Flag and touch football are foundational for learning football.
Coaches and referees work together to make sure players can follow plays and become smart on the field. Flag and touch football players tend to blend seamlessly into traditional teams when that time comes. With these different kinds of football, there has never been a better time to introduce your family to the sport so many are passionate about. If you’re looking for a local league, visit FutureForFootball.com to find one near you.
Even as a third grader, Scarlett is a respected and valued member of her team. Rival teams make a big mistake when they see her long blond hair and categorize her as “just a girl” and not also as a formidable opponent. She is both, and opposing players learn this lesson very quickly.
When playing defense, Scarlett is a weak-side linebacker. The weak-side linebacker fills an essential role on the team and is considered to be one of the best all-around athletes on the team. This position is considered to be a good match for players who are strong, tough, and fast. Scarlett excels in this position.
She also plays offense as a running back. This is another position that must be filled by a multi-talented player. In this role, she can be called on to run, catch, block, and even throw the ball. She is a fast runner, which I saw with my own eyes when she scored a touchdown during the game I attended. Her dad told me that she gets her speed from her mom. Both of her parents are impressive athletes in their own right and her older brother, Everett, plays football too.
Seeing Scarlett play was the first time I’d gone to a football game and I was surprised by how much fun it was! I truly didn’t expect to join the sideline of Buccaneers’ families and supporters and immediately get caught up in the game. It was impossible to not get swept up in the crowd’s enthusiasm and excitement. I also didn’t expect the strong sense of community that I felt. Everyone was celebrating and cheering for all of the players. Everyone was concerned when a kid tumbled. It was great to be included in the crowd of fans and to chat with the moms next to me about what was going on. I make friends easily, but I can see how a football family would become tight after a season together, and a lot of these kids play together for years. The football families seem like a well-oiled machine, prepared to fundraise, encourage, and rally around their team.
Another thing that surprised me during the game was seeing how caring the players were to each other. Eight-year-old kids aren’t known for being selfless and compassionate. It isn’t because they’re mean, it’s because they’re just starting to learn how to be people. One mom told me,
This program builds on social skills and my kid doesn’t even know it!
I could see evidence of her claim. And isn’t that the best way to learn?
Growing children trip and fall all the time due to their changing bodies and slow-to-catch-up proprioception. I can’t even say how many times I’ve seen children walking and just totally wipe out for no apparent reason. My own daughter, at age 10, ran directly into a door frame in our house (that has been there for her entire life) at high speed and hurt herself.
Kids tumbled on the football field too. It’s normal. Sometimes they laughed it off and sometimes they cried. The day I saw the team play was extremely hot and just running in the hot sun would have brought me to tears. Regardless of the reason for ruffled feathers, I was touched to see how Buccaneers players checked in with each other and comforted each other after minor tumbles.
There was not one moment of that toxic “suck it up” atmosphere, not a single instant. The support teammates gave each other was reflected in the support given by coaches and families. Everyone was invested, encouraging, and involved.
I was interested to see if Scarlett’s teammates or coaches treated her differently since she is the only girl on the field. I could not see any evidence of her being singled out in any way by her teammates or coaches.
At one point, she may have been singled out by a player on the opposing team who chose to tussle with her and tried to push her back down the field, but she dug her heels in and refused to budge. I might have laughed, just a little, to see this fierce little girl not giving up even a single inch to a player who was larger than her and who probably expected her to fold. One thing I am certain of, Scarlett does not give up. She isn’t brash or in your face, but this kiddo knows her strength, taps into her vast determination, and isn’t going to back down.
Vermont Mom has been delighted to partner with Future for Football for this article. Future for Football is the National Football Foundation’s cross-platform, multimedia campaign to celebrate the positive impact football has made on millions of players, coaches, administrators, volunteers, and fans nationwide since its debut in early 2018. Future for Football celebrates the individuals, organizations, and communities nationwide who positively impact or are impacted by the sport of football. The campaign’s website is www.FutureForFootball.com and people can follow it on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Please visit FutureForFootball.com to find a league near you and for other helpful resources.
Pin this post and be sure to follow Vermont Mom on Pinterest!
Vermont Mom Insiders get exclusive content that you do not want to miss, so sign up today!