gmhTODAY Summer 2022 - Page 44

A Community Champion :

Jeff Dixon Carries the Flag ( Football )

Jeff Dixon , founder , director , and coach of Morgan Hill ’ s

Grid Iron Flag Football youth league , remembers the joy of heading down to the park with his brother to play football as a child . The kind of kid who struggled with organized sports , these outings with his brother and other neighborhood friends brought a pleasure that stuck with him into adulthood , where he remained a fan of football and eventually got into coaching Flag Football . When he had the opportunity to bring the youth sport to Morgan Hill , after years of coaching in San Jose , he jumped at the chance .
“ I wanted to reach out and bring that park experience I had to kids who either already play a sport , or like myself , couldn ’ t get into organized sports ,” he says .
In an era where parents are more nervous about sending their darlings down to the park by themselves , Flag Football enables kids to have an organized , safe , constructive level of joy and activity that Dixon so fondly remembers .
Every Sunday during a season , he says the energy is contagious and excited , turning often shy kids , or those who haven ’ t considered themselves athletic , into stars on the field . Flag Football approximates real football by modifying the sport in both field length , player numbers , and equipment , so that it removes all of the dangerous contact elements of the national sport , but keeps the fun of two teams setting out to score points against each other .
Another boy named Sam , who has been playing since he was seven years old , was so energized by the game , that his mother told Dixon he slept in his jersey before a game so he ’ d be ready to go first thing in the morning . “ That boy could juke and stunt and play the game !”
Dixon also believes in “ empowering all children ” regardless of gender or physical ability . He ’ s made it a goal to get more girls involved in the sport , in particular , even starting a separate girls ’ league that he ’ s trying to grow . “ One of the things that has been so stereotypical in football is that girls are typically cheering on the boy football players , not participating with them . In my inaugural season I had a little girl ask me if I was going to start a cheerleading program to cheer on the boys . I said , ‘ no , honey . I don ’ t want you to cheer on the boys ; I want you to compete with the boys .”
One success story is a girl named Sophia , who joined in pre-K , and has continued playing through high school . Currently a senior , she came to work for Dixon as an official in 2019 . “ She ’ s
Dixon is always impressed by how kids rise to the challenge . He fondly describes a boy named Riley , who has played the game for at least four years . “ Last spring , I watched him make a catch on the final play of the game , at the back of the end zone , where he went vertical about two or three feet to pull this pass down . And he won the game right there on that catch . Now he ’ s a force .”
44 SUMMER 2022 gmhTODAY Magazine gmhtoday . com