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It might have been understandable for a casual observer to expect a loose, easy-going atmosphere watching 10, 11 and 12-year-olds play flag football.
The Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation hosted the Get The Ball Rolling Flag Football Tournament presented by Coca-Cola for 100 youth in Richmond, Va. on Tuesday, August 4, 2015.
But even though the 10 teams battling on Tuesday were in between NFL Flag Football seasons, the exhibition round robin tournament at Saint Christopher's School in Richmond, Va., had the same amount of competitive energy-- from coaches, parents (sometimes chirping like coaches) and players-- as a week in late fall.
"You try to win every game you're playing," said Steve Arnold, a head coach from Leesburg, Va. "It's for fun but any time you play you try to do the best you can."
Close to 100 participants signed up for the Get The Ball Rolling Flag Football Tournament, which was presented by Coca-Cola. Hosted by the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation, the event featured five rounds before a championship game, ending a morning in the hot, humid sun with some trophies, medals and plenty of water and sandwiches.
Before it kicked off, fullback Darrel Young, taking time out of the players' off day, spoke to the crowd congregating in the grandstands, preaching the importance of staying fit and using sports like this to connect with teammates and friends.
"This is fun," Young said. "I see the same 90 guys in the locker room, on the field… Obviously you want to always see someone who's in a position that's a professional doing what you do, guide you and give you a little advice on what you want to do in life."
Young, who continues to play a large role in the community, downplayed his involvement, understanding his position in life and memories of his own childhood getting into the game of football, a sport, naturally, that he and his teammates excelled in.
"I was always overweight for one," Young said smiling. "Just the friendships that you gain -- I was close with a lot of those guys and I lost three games between the ages of 7 and 13. It was just a bond that you'll never forget because those are the stories that you remember, going to camp, just being a kid and not having any responsibilities but to go to school and play football."
The larger goal of the tournament is to promote physical exercise, something easy to spot Tuesday after just a few minutes on a field littered with sweat.
"We believe we have a commitment to helping people lead active and healthy lives," said Michael Golder, Coca-Cola Mid-Atlantic market unit general manager. "We do this by producing a wide variety of beverages, providing nutrition information and by supporting physical activity programs right in the communities where we live and work."
"Mentoring Through Athletics" won the tournament with a 13-9 championship victory, and while most of the kids playing will suit up in pads when they return to school in the fall, flag football offers them an opportunity to stay mentally fresh, as well as safe, as they further hone their skills.
"I think flag football is important just because you have a lot of guys who don't understand contact maybe at their age, maybe they've never played," Young said. "You don't want to get yourself hurt going out there, not understanding the proper technique, keeping your head up, all the little things that get hurt early. I think it's just an opportunity to understnad the game and kind of prepare yourself for what you're actually going to go through if this is what you want to in the near future. Flag football is just away to set the ground for what you want to do."