I miss the days of watching my son play football.
It was a part of our lives for a decade. There was so much preparation for that week from pep rallies, school events, crock pot recipes, tailgates…the list goes on and on. I was that mom that decked myself out in the school colors and wore my sons number. I even dyed my hair burgundy one year to match his school colors. The gridiron life was our life. We built so many friendships, and the football families truly became our family no matter what level and where he played.
But in addition to all that excitement and preparation (and watching my sons teams win…a lot), there was an unspoken and beneficial side to football that most don’t pay a lot of attention to until after your child has retired his cleats, that goes far deeper than stepping on any field.
The first is the benefits on your child’s health.
With an epidemic of childhood obesity in America, parents have started to pay attention to their child’s health at an early age, getting them involved with sports to help them develop a lifestyle of fitness and exercise. This is an aspect that my son has taken into his adult life. These habits are second nature in a sense that even if he’s not taking the field, he is watching his diet and keeping in shape. As a child, when my son played Pop Warner, he practiced every day whether with his team or out with his dad running drills. These habits helped him stand out at the high school level because when many of his friends were sleeping in on the weekends or partying with friends during the summer, my son would be on the field, solo, working at his craft.
This type of discipline was just second nature to him because he loved the game and cared about his performance. He wanted to be the best and compete for his spot in the game. He wasn’t BORN to play. He was a scrawny kid and I delayed his start in football for two years because of that very reason.
But his learned discipline at the Pop Warner level trained him to work hard. This also helped his mental health and poured over into his schoolwork. He did well because he disciplined himself with the allotted time he had to plan accordingly to get homework and projects done even with the demands of his football schedule.
The most exciting benefit of football for myself was the camaraderie with other families.
Then there was the camaraderie within the team. Coaches and players were family. They understood something that other students may not have because they didn’t play football. My son also wrestled and ran track. I didn’t know those families or spend nearly as much time with them. This wasn’t because I didn’t want to. It was just that football was a different culture. By the sheer nature of the regiment, the players, coaches and families were just together all of the time. It wasn’t just about the game. It was about the tailgating for hours before where we talked to each other about our lives, our kids lives and their future. It almost always revolved around, and came back to, football.
This is a culture that you just don’t understand until you are involved in it. These kids all shared a passion and a dream. They had loyalty to their team and one another. They shared the same drive to be disciplined and perform as a team, on the field and off.
All of the qualities and the lessons learned from football proved to be most important when my son began getting recruited his junior year. Due to my son’s drive, he began being recruited to play at the college level. He wasn’t the largest kid, but he was fast. And on paper, he was a star. As recruiters met him in person, they often told him that he didn’t pass the “eye test” (meaning he looked great on paper and performed, but just did not have the size).
For most kids, my son included, this is discouraging and hard to hear. He had no choice but to accept “no” from a number of his dream schools. But that did not stop him. From the lessons of football, it just made him work harder, once again, to earn that “spot.” He kept at it, reaching out to schools and getting his high school coaches to back him. He would not accept “no” and maintained the confidence to keep going and to keep trying. His mental health remained strong, and he stayed encouraged even in the down times of receiving yet another rejection letter.
Football goes beyond a game.
It has lifelong lessons that benefit kids no matter what level that they decide to play.
For many, football dreams end at the high school level. That being said, it is important that a game such as football goes beyond mechanics of how to play. The game needs to teach lessons that will carry a player through college and in life, even when the game is over for them.