Why Football May Be the Best Sport to Teach Life Lessons for Young Men
My wife asked me this evening, "If we had a son, would you let him play football?" I will be honest it would be hard for me to answer this. The most obvious answer is that if our son wanted to play football, we would support him. We have two daughters and in the same sense, if they wanted to be cheerleaders, my wife would support them. It would break her heart, but she would fake the support. "Why cheer for a sport you could play yourself?" I hear her say often.

I would be hesitant to push my children into anything. Football is a tough sport to push an unwilling participant to do. There are some reports that say participation is down by the 10s of thousands. Some attribute this mostly to the media exposure to head injuries. Are there really more concussions? Are we better at diagnosing them? Do we have a more stringent return-to-play protocol? Regardless, that factor would be in the pack of my mind.

At the same time, some research has pointed to the fact that our 5 year old is more likely to have a second concussion due to already having one. (Don't judge us, long story.) And the one organized sport she had started to play (women's soccer) is 5th on the list of most frequent concussions in college athletics.

But I thought about why kids play football and continue to play as young men. And not because their parents told them to, but why they love the game. I thought of why I played and what I learned from the game.

I honestly believe that organized sports are the best thing that young boys and girls can participate in because of the life lessons they learn. I also believe the game of football teaches certain lessons better than any other sport. Here are a few reasons.

The Physicality
Football is a rare sport like rugby and hockey that is a combined collision and combat sport. The first year I started playing football was 1981. One of my coaches was a Marine Sargent names Pat Riley. He gave me the nickname of Kamikaze (and not for the drink). For any world war 2 vets I don't mean to be insensitive, but the Kamikaze pilots of Japan would crash their planes into ships in order to inflict more damage. These pilots were names after the "Divine Wind" and be being the smallest little runt on the team; my only chance was to be what my nickname entailed. I knew even at a young age that after running full speed into another player meant that I was going to have a really bad headache, lose feeling in one of my arms, and worst of all, get trucked. But that is what had to of happen. I still feel those hits in my spine even today and there are plenty of times I know I may get trucked in my life. I still need to dive-bomb into every problem I have.

The Role Player
Football is one of those sports. Not everyone gets to dribble and shoot, not everyone gets to bat, not everyone get the same opportunities as everyone else on the team. No other game has such defined roles and rules designated for each player. I scored one touchdown in a JV game at Allderdice High School. After my 10th grade year, I never touched a football again unless it was a fumble recovery (and I probably had to fishhook someone or check their oil to get that pigskin.) From 11th grade until I was done playing college, I played mostly Nose Guard. Explaining to someone who has never played football that my job was to get as low as possible and ram my head in between to other large men, stay in between them and don't get pushed back; seems kind of silly. But that is what I did. Every practice, every game. I learned early that the work you do may not give you any recognition except from yourself. That is the most important kind.

The Off-Season
Just about every other sport you play, you can play year round. Football is different. After the season you have 16 practices during Springball (D3 you can't even wear pads for those). Aside from those times, it is extremely difficult to perfect the technical and tactical skills. Of course you an run some 7 on 7 but it is impossible to practice the skills need from success in the game like tackling and blocking, etc. This helped me learn to embrace every opportunity to improve as a player. Doing the little things when coaches weren't coaching not know if they would make a difference or not; was a humbling experience.

The Finality
Once you are done playing football, you are done. I got lucky. When that clock ran down to Zero at South Stadium in Pittsburgh after we lost to the Perry Traditional Academy Commodores in November of 1990, I thought I would never play again. I ended up walking on at Clarion after the Marines, but went through the same scenario against Mansfield University at Memorial Stadium.

There are rec leagues to play organized competitive basketball, soccer, softball, just about any sport. But once you are done with Football, there is really never an opportunity to play an organized game of football with pads again. I know, I know, there is semi-pro ball, but in most situations, you will never have the opportunity to strap on a helmet again. Football is one of those sports with a sense of urgency. If you are injured for 3 games, that is a quarter of a season. A college or high school carer can be as little as 40 games. This is a factor that most don't fully grasp until they are done playing. I would chop off a finger to play one more series of college football. But that urgency carries over to my life now. Just like I knew my time was running out on my career; I know the time with my daughters is going by fast and I will never get that time back.


Log Press (1 Viper)

  • 210 x1
  • 210 x3
  • 210 x5

* Not sure why the backward rep scheme, but I was able to add a little more volume and I drastically reduces the warm-up.  Monday's are a little crazy.