flag football team

Ten-year-old Aiden’s first-choice sport is always flag football, says his mom, Jessica Gross.

This year, group sports were looking uncertain. Then, YMCA Youth Sports announced a fall flag football and soccer season, and Jessica jumped at the chance to sign Aiden up for his second year with the program.

“We were very excited when the YMCA opened registration during the pandemic,” says Jessica, “but we were also anxious about how it would all come together.”

To their family, the fall season was about more than just playing a sport—it was about connection. “We believe being with our community is crucial during the current times as we’re reminded that we are all in this together,” Jessica shares. “We need one another for team and family comradery, socialization, and laughter.”

Coming into the season, they weren’t sure what to expect. But, Jessica says, it was “a great collaboration of safety by all.” Aiden was on the Bengals team with Coach Houle and his Defensive Coordinator, Coach Chip. “The entire staff was seen getting temperature checks and wearing masks throughout the day,” Jessica says. “At halftime, the refs sprayed the flags with disinfectant. Most of all, we loved the big and small spray-painted social distancing circles for families and athletes.” The coaches kept parents up-to-date with any changes, making sure that all the details were covered.

For Jessica, the memories of Aiden’s fall flag football season go beyond scoring points. “The friendships that these kids make with amazing coaches create the best [moments] we could find," she says. "The coaches taught our team about commitment, good sportsmanship, work ethic, caring for others, winning, and losing. The Y pulled it together beyond our expectations. We as families could feel normal again and have fun cheering on our athletes.”