Flag football league

Colt Gallaway (center) and two friends play flag football with the South Carolina Youth Football Association. The association provides a venue for area youth with health conditions to compete in the popular sport.

Whitney Gallaway didn’t video her son’s first touchdown, but she’ll never forget it.

Myrtle Beach Christian Academy student Colt Gallaway was running, playing, laughing, and playing a sport his family never thought he’d play.

The 10-year-old has mild hemophilia and what that’s meant, among other things, has been “no football allowed.”

Contact sports have been avoided because mild hemophilia causes internal and external bleeding that last longer than in people who do not have the condition.

“His body doesn’t make enough of what it needs to be on a normal [blood] clotting level,” his mother explained.

Colt’s favorite teams are the Indianapolis Colts and the Alabama Crimson Tide. Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is his role model and favorite player.

But until recently, he’d only watched football on TV with his Dad, Justin, and watched other kids play, from the sidelines.

“The only sports that were available to Colt were swimming, golf, and things like that that he had no interest in,” Whitney Gallaway said about her son’s athletic opportunities.

So when Colt’s physician at Columbia’s Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital asked what sports Colt was involved in, Whitney Gallaway was surprised.

She was even more surprised when she learned that flag football, which doesn’t involve tackling, was a possible alternative for her son.

Colt now plays on the Dallas Cowboys team with the South Carolina Youth Flag Football Association [SCYFFA], which is sponsored and affiliated with the NFL Youth Flag Football Programs and USA Football.

Program director James Jones said the 5-on-5 non-contact co-ed league for children between 3 and 13 years old stresses a “Kids First” environment, with “First” symbolizing fun and fundamentals with the F; instruction with the I; respect with the R; sportsmanship with the S; and team work with the T.

“We teach them the basics of football and we teach them a little bit of life skills through our motto, ‘Kids First,’” Jones said.

Jones, who now lives in the Forestbrook area, is a graduate of West Virginia University and was a four-year running back for the West Virginia Mountaineers, and he briefly played in the NFL and World Football Leagues.

With a background as a parks & recreation department director for 12 years, Jones said flag football is for all children, not just those with physical limitations.

However, that said, Jones added that there are two children with hemophilia in the local league, as well as a child with autism and a child who cannot hear.

“We want children to learn the basics of football and we want our league to be a stepping stone,” Jones said. “We tell the parents when their child is ready to play tackle football and there are kids in middle school and high school playing tackle who started in our league.”

When Colt, who usually plays running back, scored his first touchdown, after running 60 yards with the ball, Jones, who was the referee, yelled, “Did you get it?” to Colt’s mother, notorious for videoing the games.

“I was too busy cheering and yelling ‘Go, go, go,’” Whitney Gallaway laughed. “Everyone was so excited and happy.”

“The look on her face is hard to put into words,” Jones said about Colt’s mother’s expression when her son scored.

“There was such joy on Colt’s face and the fans were cheering and his friends were cheering.”

Although he’s only in fifth grade, Colt Gallaway already knows that someday, he’d like to start a flag football league for other children. And, perhaps he’d also like to be a professional referee.

In the meantime, he loves playing flag football.

“I love it,” he said. “I love running and playing and I love watching it too.”

And about his touchdown, the pre-teen said very simply, “I trusted God and He is working in me.”

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(1) comment

jerrygregory

I coached the team that the touchdown was scored against and I remember the look on Colts face when he scored. It is why I coach youth sports. Very proud to have been a part of the moment. I will never forget the smile on Colts face when he scored. Great Play!!!!

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