Neighborhood football was the best kind of football for me
I am referring to American football, but it could apply to the other football as well. I am American, so growing up when the neighborhood kids and I would get together, we usually defaulted to the American variety of football even though I was a lot better at soccer.
Keeping in mind that this was back before the tech age that we live in now, it was almost a daily occurrence that after school or even moreso in the summer break, the neighborhood would all gather in one place for some good ol' outdoor sports. The easiest way to do this was to involve a sport that required only 1 piece of equipment so football or soccer was our go to.
I would later go on to play both footballs in a competitive capacity, but my heart will always remember the fun that came along with neighborhood pick up games.
this isn't us. Getting a photo was quite the undertaking in the late 80's
When I think about how much coordination we had to put into actually organizing a decent game among the kids in the neighborhood I think that all of us probably learned a thing or two about getting all of our ducks in a row and learned some organization skills. It wasn't like we had a group chat or anything. Getting 10 or 20 kids together in the same place at the same time involved calling everyone or simply running around the entire neighborhood to ask everyone in person if they wanted to come and play. There had to be parental permission involved and a method of forming the teams with whoever just happened to turn up. We also had a wide range of ages involved so we had to be a little bit careful with the smaller or younger people involved since getting hurt was almost guaranteed in those times. Maybe we got a bit tougher because of this because I remember involving my little brother who is 4 years younger than I am, on a play and while he scored the touchdown, he took a really hard hit in the endzone that snapped his neck back on the fall. He was a mixture of tears and glory as he stood back up and I was proud of him for getting past that.
On one particular glorious day, we had around 20 people involved and we went into the field behind my house at the time with a lawn mower and actually mapped out some boundaries for the sidelines as well as the endlines. This was the day we decided to do full-contact and everyone took some seriously hard hits. Of course we encouraged people to take it easy on the girls and younger people but if you put your feet on that field that day, you were going to take hits and pretty hard ones at that. I'm amazed that there wasn't blood involved at some point because none of us had any protective gear on.
This is the main reason why I loved neighborhood football so much. We didn't have to bring 400 pounds of stuff with us to play a game. It was just a ball and a bunch of people that had a shared love for the sport.
We would also do this thing where if one team started to become too dominant, we would swap players halfway through the game since there was maybe 4 people out there that were quite skilled and I am delighted to say that I was one of them.
I think that all of us kids out there that day were accidentally developing skills that would help us for the rest of our lives. There were no adults that were helping us coordinate the games, nor was there any referees or coaches to go crying to if you didn't like how a play worked out or if you were getting rough housed.
The setup was handled entirely by people who weren't even yet teenagers, yet the games flowed really well. We had to argue fouls on our own and come to a conclusion fairly and there were no spats that resulted in someone doing the famous "taking their ball and going home." Afterwards we would all be covered in dirt and bruises and of course a lot of our clothing was ruined from it. We would wander to one of the kids' houses for some hose water and then maybe go our different ways for some Nintendo or cookies... you know, something innocent like that.
Now that I am older, I get a little bit sad when I go around the various neighborhoods and I rarely see any of this going on. I'm not gonna put on my Gen-X pants and say that it was better back in my day, but this was a weekly tradition when I was a kid and these days, I don't think that anyone really does this even though they actually have the communication tools to organize it a lot better. We had almost zero technology involved in our coordination of these impromptu games, yet they always happened.
I hope the love for sport hasn't died with the introduction of technology, but at least from my perspective now, it does kind of appear that way.
I have a lot of sporting memories because it was such a huge part of my life growing up but the ones I remember best seem to be the ones that weren't in a league or adult-sponsored situation. Behold! The power of a dozen or so bored neighborhood kids!