Former PAL officer starts flag football program at Philly middle school

Matteo Iadonisi Image
Monday, May 22, 2023
Former PAL officer starts flag football program at Philly school
James Washington took what he learned with the Police Athletic League and brought it to middle school students in Kensington.

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- "I'm the disciplinarian, but I'm more than just a disciplinarian," said James Washington. "I like to consider myself as a coach, as a mentor, as a teacher, you know...someone who can make a positive impact on the lives of young people."

Washington wore many hats before arriving at Russell H. Conwell Middle Magnet School as the 'Climate Manager.' He was a member of the United States Navy and Army Reserve. He also served as a Philadelphia police officer for more than 20 years, and spent some of that time with the Police Athletic League.

There, he helped run and referee basketball and flag football leagues. And those skills he learned would prove beneficial in the present day.

"I saw kids in the school yard early in the morning playing flag football," he said. "That gave me the idea that I need to do something for these young people."

Washington formed a formal flag football league within the school, featuring four student-led teams that competed against each other on Thursday afternoons. Parents were even invited to spectate the games, which culminated in a championship match.

"They're making sure that their teams are being respectful, being responsible, you know, well-mannered and solutionary," he said. "So, we're incorporating all of these things in the minds of young people."

In the future, Washington hopes to run a fall basketball league and recruit more girls to play flag football. But those are just a few of the various programs available at a school nestled in Philadelphia's Kensington neighborhood.

"We already know what's going on in the neighborhood, but just come inside the walls of our school and you'll be treated to something special," he said.

To learn more about Conwell Middle School, visit their website.

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