It’s time to pass the torch.

Ed Ryan announced last week that he was stepping down as President of the Gateway Flag Football League. The GFFL will now be run by trusted coaches George Hrunka and Tim Miller.

The league was founded 8 years ago by Ryan and Mike Kelly and operates both a spring and a fall season – with each session having between 150 and 200 children that participate.

Being associated with the GFFL as its President (or even as a referee) is often referred to as a “thankless job” but Ryan has volunteered his time for six out of the past eight years and has never been shy about reminding the entire community that youth sports are about the children – not about the parents, who seem to be the ones who cause the majority of the problems in youth leagues.

When asked about his decision to step down, Ryan had this to say: “Other than two years away from the league, my wife Kim and I have been involved as part of the management structure, or as a referee, since forming the league with Mike Kelly while sitting at the snack bar at Fort Myers Fitness 8 years ago. We’ve also had tremendous help from Al and Ginny Azizi, as well as Ginny’s mom who spends every one of her Friday nights in the concession stand. This past Saturday we turned over full control of Gateway Flag Football to a group of experienced coaches who’ve put a lot of time and effort into teaching the kids the game and improving the league over the years. It was very satisfying to see these men and women lead by George Hrunka and Tim Miller step up and take charge. It’s clear they all understand what an organized youth league means to a local community. We have no doubt they will inject fresh ideas into the league, an important aspect to moving it forward. Parents and players should know this will a completely smooth transition. Kim and I hope we’ve set a good example for the kids, taught them a little about good sportsmanship and a healthy lifestyle.”

A long-time resident of Gateway, Ryan is the Editor of Radio Ink, a publication that focuses on issues facing the radio industry. But he also operates Ed’s Fit Camp (edsfitcamp.com) which offers 8-week long fitness training programs, and from time to time our Facebook feed shows pictures of Ryan doing obstacle-based running and endurance challenges that most people would find intimidating.

So when Ryan says he wanted part of the experience of playing in the GFFL to be about living a healthier lifestyle, he means it. And he set a prime example for the kids with his own dedication to fitness.

“I’m sad, you will be missed. You dedicated your time and effort for a thankless job. I understand moving on. I enjoyed working with you. You are a great mentor and role model for the kids,” said Barry Ashman on the GFFL’s Facebook page.

Heather Giordano added, “Ed, thank you for your dedication to character education … Your reminders to us, as parents, what was really important, kept the fun in flag football for our kids.”

As for what his future holds, Ryan joked that he would begin knitting and reading the AARP magazine.

Ryan built and leaves behind a Gateway Flag Football League that is in great shape as a youth sports program. New managers Hrunka and Miller are already working on the upcoming fall season and will announce player registration details soon.

For more information about the GFFL please visit GatewayFlag.com or check out their Facebook page at fb.com/GatewayFlagFootball.

Editor of the Gateway Sun and owner of restaurant delivery service Florida Food Runner.

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