By Randy Kindred
Yocoyani Galindo has submitted an application to become a Chicago firefighter. He is hopeful, but the process takes a while.
In the meantime, the 28-year-old Galindo is serving his community in another way. And judging from the smiles Saturday on the McGuane Park Magic – from Galindo and his players – the time is being well spent.
Galindo coached the Magic in Division 2 (TD2) of the Special Olympics Illinois State Flag Football Tournament at Peoria’s Louisville Slugger Sports Complex.
“It’s fantastic,” he said. “It’s great to see them play. It’s great to see them win and have fun.
“We’ve had a lot of practice. It’s great to just learn the game and kind of build up the skill level.”
There was some angst Saturday in the first of the Magic’s two games. The Warren County Falcon Crests scored a touchdown with 15 seconds remaining to pull within 27-26. The conversion attempt failed, preserving the Magic’s slim lead.
McGuane Park put it away moments later, scoring with seven seconds left to win, 34-26.
“Definitely a little scared at the end there, but at the end of the day, we’re here to have fun and they played well, too,” Galindo said.
McGuane Park is located in the Bridgeport area of Chicago. “There’s not very much to do,” Galindo said.
Thus, a weekend trip to Peoria, complete with a hotel stay, the state tournament, a pizza party and a dance, is a treat.
“We’ll have pizza tonight and a nice dance,” Galindo said. “After the (second) game, we’ll get showered, dressed up and dance. We’ll be out on the dance floor until they kick us out.
“They really like to have fun here and get away from their home life. We don’t get to come downstate too often. Just being here is rewarding. For football, I don’t think they’ve come downstate in a long time, if ever. It’s great to be a part of that.”
Like all teams in Division 1 (TD1), many members of Without Limits Team Galaxy are relative newcomers to flag football. They’re clearly catching on quickly.
Based in Belleville, Without Limits won both of its games to earn the gold medal.
“They played pretty well,” said Floyd Schwartz, who coaches along with James Korpa and Rich Crothers. “It’s the first time playing for some of them, so it comes down to practice. Those who show up (for practices) and want to learn, they learn.
“We’ve always had the approach we teach the game. It’s not just a social time. We try to teach the game.”
Schwartz said the team has players from Belleville, Mascoutah and Columbia, ranging in age from 18 to 48. Among them is 26-year-old Nathan Schwartz, Floyd’s son.
“He started (in Special Olympics) when he was 13 with soccer,” Floyd Schwartz said. “In football, he’s been playing since he was 15 or 16.
“It has helped a lot with the social aspect. That’s one of the biggest things for him. That’s a strength for him, so it helps a lot.”
Traveling to Peoria served as a bonding experience for his son and all the players, Schwartz said.
“It takes it from the game and interjects the social time,” he said. “When you’re at the hotel, you’re doing the lunch thing and all that, that’s the time they really get to come together and be more social.”
To learn more or view results from the 2023 State Flag Football Tournament, click here.