Origin Story: Foam Football League

Two 9th graders believe they have cracked the code for the next great sporting niche


printed with permission of Nickoll

Winners of last season’s Foam Football Foam Bowl from left Alex Nickoll ’25, Cole Grossman ’25 and Matthew Reiter ’25

Being introduced to a new sports phenomenon is an experience for the ages. A select few have mastered the art of athletic endeavors such as underwater rugby and wife carrying, but two Harvard-Westlake (HW) students believe they have cracked the code for the next great sporting niche that is soon to take the world by storm: Foam Football. 

“I was sitting out on the Commons,” co-creator of the Foam  Football League (FFL) Alex Nickoll ’25 said. “A lot of girls kept coming up to me and trying to get my number. When I looked beyond where they were standing, I could see 7th graders throwing around a foam football. I told [Ryder Katz ’25] to write down the girls’ numbers for me while I went and bought one from the bookstore.” 

The league’s origin story mirrors that of many great organizations – it has been compared to such as Google and Apple, which started out with an idea and a few guys willing to work, and ended as a widespread phenomenon. Led by co-commissioners with very different values and hopes for the sport, Katz and Nickoll, the club is the single most organized intramural sports league in Harvard-Westlake’s known history.

The FFL on the middle school campus has eight 3-man teams. Each ball used is inspected by the commissioners and the games are refereed by two highly trained 9th grade officials. The athletes competing are, at this point, only 9th graders and are composed of almost entirely HW student athletes. 

“Out of our 24 members, 23 of them play a [Wolverine] sport,” Nickoll said. FFL is only available for 9th graders at this point, but Katz would like to see that change in the future.

“I’ve talked to an 8th grader to begin that process,” Katz said. “And we hope that in the future [the FFL] will start to expand to other grades and at some point other schools and states and diversify around the country.” 

HW is known for its end-of-year dodgeball tournament, but when asked if the FFL could replace the famed event, one commissioner was unsure.

“Dodgeball is a good sport because anyone can play it,” Nickoll said. “With FFL, the sport is always evolving and new strategies are coming into play.” The league, while viewed as a well-oiled machine from the outside, does have its share of drama and dissension.

“There’s a lot of beef,” Nickoll said. “I would say I’m one of the most hated figures in the FFL. I’m the commissioner and also a player. People think that the game is rigged. When I’m out there I play hard, I play tough, and people are afraid of contact.” FFL is a non-tackle form of football, but the weekly tournaments are not taken lightly by the members, and competition has turned into serious rivalries, namely between members Micah Rossen ’25 and Nickoll.

“Everyone wants to be the hero,” Nickoll said. “[Being the villain of the league] wasn’t the path I intended to take coming into the league but I think that persona has grown on me. When I embrace that, I feel like I’m at the top of my game.” 

Now on its fourth season, the FFL is a fan favorite of the class of 2025, and that means a lot to its creators.

“I think the best part is seeing kids that I would always see happy walking around campus are distraught after I soul crush them in games,” Nickoll said. His co-commissioner also values the league, but for slightly different reasons.

“The best part of this whole thing has been being able to go out after class to the Commons and see five people drawing up plays or going up to the field and seeing people throwing around the ball,” Katz said. “Being able to see that we have impacted people and created something that people enjoy is huge.”