Pictures from the very first night of practice back in August...
It was at the end of the first practice that Coach Pat asked if Cody would help coach throughout the season. Coach Pat wanted to run the offense and have Cody run the defense. The season became a full family affair - with Cody and Jaden on the field together at every practice and game, Mommy on the sidelines offering water bottles, mouth guard holding, and sometimes transporting the big bag of equipment to and from - and then Brandon playing on the playground during every practice or watching from the sidelines at every game.
Speaking of Brandon, I'm pretty proud of him. It was all about Jaden during these times, and he never once complained or got impatient. He played with other younger siblings, he sat patiently during games, and I think he actually liked football practice nights as much as Jaden did!
It's no secret that we are fans of football in our house. And sure, that was part of the fun of Jaden's 2nd grade season. But it was a whole lot more about watching our boy do something that he is so passionate about - even at such a young. He lives it and breathes it, and it was fun watching him succeed in doing it.
A little "whip nae nae" during a break in practice one night... ;)
There were big differences between this year and last year - last year being his inaugural season. One, he was younger last year and just starting out. He wasn't real speedy yet but had a good understanding of the game which carried him through the season. He had different coaches last year with a different mindset of how to put their team together. He played QB last year - because he was one of the better passers on his team. But in flag football, the quarterback isn't allowed to run the ball. This was frustrating for him.
This year however, his coaches believed in moving players around to different positions, and what a difference that made in Jaden's overall experience. He never once didn't want to go to practice, excelled at rusher - and played pretty good at quarterback when he was in the game to throw. Most of all, his speed has improved tremendously. And over the course of this season, from game one to game six, his defensive skills improved greatly. In fact, during the last game, he'd figured out how to get in front of the runner to try and block them while going after both of their flags with each hand instead of trying to pull their flags from the side. (Those things are tricky to pull!) This resulted in an accidental tackle by Jaden - and a penalty - as he ended up bear hugging a kid while pulling his flags off. But as soon as Jaden realized he was taking the kid to the ground, he made sure it was a gentle tackle. ;) Most of his flag pulling ended in a summersault on the ground by him, as he would dive to catch the rusher, pull the flag - and execute it nicely by tucking his head under him as he would fall. (He spends hours watching football and it shows!) ;)
Right after a score... game face. :)
At the beginning of the school year, Jaden set a personal goal in class to score a touchdown in each of his six games. I thought that was a pretty big goal to set for himself - especially considering he only scored one touchdown last year - but he did it! Four rushing touchdowns - and two pass receptions for touchdowns - the last one in pretty dramatic fashion. ;) Having scored in each of his first five games, the pressure really mounted for him to get that score in his final game so that his goal would be met. The way the team was set up, he played offense the entire first half of every game, and defense the entire second half. So we knew if he didn't score by half time, he'd have lost his opportunity. His first two rushing attempts in that final game resulted in first downs - but not scores. It was almost half time, and I really thought his chance was over, until Drew threw Jaden a perfectly thrown long pass that Jaden caught beautifully before juking two defenders in front of him and running all the way down field for the score. I'm not sure who was more excited that he did it - Jaden, myself - or my dad! You should have seen that Papa Bob fist pump! ;)
Those Fall nights of practice were some of my favorite nights. Starting at the end of summer - and ending two months later in the middle of fall - watching the sun set earlier and earlier in the sky as our season wore on. Those nights of practice - though rushed and hectic - were the nights that I often thought to myself on the way home in our mini-van full of footballs and cleats, with the sun setting in my rear view mirror, "This is what I have always wanted. I have it."
We all came away with new friendships - Jaden has tailgated with his teammates, gone to swimming parties with his teammates and now plans on playing basketball with a couple of them. I enjoyed the fellowship of bonding with other moms and dads three days a week on the sidelines. And Brandon got to see quite a few of his buddies from Blessed Beginnings during games, as well.
And to make the season extra special - Dustin - one of the school-age daycare teachers from Blessed Beginnings - showed up to two of Jaden's games to see him and some of the other daycare kids play. This guy is pretty special to my boy - a college kid taking time out of his Saturday to watch first and second graders play flag football? Pretty cool...
Coach Pat was great, too. He'd send regular emails to the parents throughout the season to tell us how he felt things were going. And a couple of times he called Cody in the middle of the day to let him know about football games and programs that were going on that weekend that he thought Jaden might be interested in. We had some pretty good parents and kids on our team, as well.
Great year, Chargers. Can't wait for next year!