I was talking to my girlfriend the other day about our future kids (please God not anytime soon), and the topic of sports came up. She said that she wouldn’t let our kids play football when they’re older and that she would rather they choose soccer. This news was almost as outraging as whatever album Taylor Swift released beating out To Pimp a Butterfly at the Grammys for album of the year last week. I could go on about why soccer is the most detrimental force in American culture, but I’ll leave that for a future column. I’m a firm believer that participating in youth football can have a great positive impact on kids. After all, I attribute all of my outstanding qualities to playing football throughout my youth (okay maybe football isn’t that beneficial). I know there’s a growing concern about the possible dangers of playing youth football, but let me outline the reasons why I think the benefits of football outweigh its risks, and why me and my girl will be getting into a few more arguments when our kids become old enough to put on pads.
First of all, football helps you develop many qualities that not only are beneficial on the field, but are also crucial to a successful life in general. A football team is like a family, and there are many positive characteristics that come with embracing the team like a family. First of all, coaches stress accountability, loyalty and trust. After going through many battles with your team, you learn the importance of doing your part and playing your role to the best of your ability. If you don’t, you hurt your team. This sense of accountability not only helps your team win football games, but helps you become a better person in life.
Football is also very beneficial in developing leadership qualities. In seventh grade (my glory years as a football player), I was thrust into the starting quarterback position. Up to that point in my life, I had never really assumed a major leadership position. But that promotion to a key starting position made me learn on the fly how to be a good leader. I had to rally the offense and motivate them when things weren’t going very well. I learned how to manage the team during practices and how to get the best out of them. I can honestly say that my quarterback experiences growing up shaped who I am today. Admittedly, my middle school football team was awful, and we only won a handful of games, but I think that is beside the point. Football thrusts people into situations where they are forced to be leaders, and this is undeniably helpful.
I never really knew the value of hard work before football. I was always the tallest guy in basketball, so dominating the paint was never hard for me. But when it came down to football, there was always someone who was bigger, stronger, or faster than me. Football is the one sport where taking even a day off can give the opponent a greater advantage. I learned to take things into my own hands and hit the weight room in my spare time. I sought out a coaches outside of the field that could give me tips on how to become a better player. Basically, football taught me that resourcefulness and hard work are essential for success.
But the greatest thing I took from football is the friendships I made along the way. I first started playing football in fifth grade, and I played pretty consistently with that same group of guys through high school. Over the years, the bonds I made with my teammates become inseparable. I can genuinely say that I love all of my teammates. Even now that I am off at college, I still talk to my former friends on a weekly basis. I know that these guys will be there for me whenever I need something. They had my back on the field, and I know they’ll be there off of it.
I know that there is a growing risk of concussions in football, and I definitely agree that this is a major concern. I hope that advances in equipment help to prevent issues like this in the future. However, there are injury risks in every sport, and I think the positives of football outweigh the risks. So get ready Shane Jr., training starts at your fifth birthday.