It comes off as a little self-indulgent. Adults play flag football on teams with such names as Cougar Bait and Da Real Deal, complete with player statistics and photos of interceptions, diving catches, kickoff returns.
But there are the soldiers home from Afghanistan, too, and the street-savvy kids talented enough to be playing college ball but didn’t have the grades. There was the supremely athletic teenager from Petersburg who didn’t know how to use a computer. Brad Gamlin, commissioner of the Central Virginia Football Association, remembers asking him to keep stats, but he didn’t know how to use email.
There was the team that argued and cursed at each other constantly — and lost a lot. Gamlin sat them down one day after a game, and let them have it: “Listen guys, someone needs to step up and be a leader and everyone else needs to shut up and listen.”
They took his advice. One of the players reported back, amazed: “I had no idea football could be so much fun.”
Gamlin grew up in a Spotsylvania trailer park. After moving to Richmond to attend Virginia Commonwealth University in 1993, he landed a job as an urban planner for the city, where he worked on foreclosure prevention and affordable housing.
Now he focuses on the league full time. There are 39 teams with 400 to 500 players. There are co-ed teams and church teams, but Gamlin most enjoys working with the players who haven’t had it so easy.
Success on the field demands cooperation, understanding, putting egos aside. So Gamlin teaches. “It’s amazing what the team can accomplish when no one worries about who’s getting the credit,” he says.