By Ryan Dutton
When the high school season gets underway, student athletes will spend their Friday at school, dressed in game jerseys, paying close attention to their instructors, working as hard as they can, all the while daydreaming about the big game and the big play later that night! I’m sure most high schools boys are able to multi-task quite effectively, meaning that previous sentence occurs every Friday with no hiccups! One thing is for sure, they will all be focused on a similar all-American goal: becoming part of a winning football team. Football is America’s greatest game for boys and girls, not only because of the lessons it teaches but also because of the broad range of young folks who can play the game and learn those lessons.
The first great lesson young athletes learn playing football is that great things are only achieved after long hours of hard work. Great high school football teams do not just show up on game day and play. Players on great teams work all year round to develop the strength and skills they need to win in the fall.
A second great lesson we learn playing football is that they must play as a team to win. The greatest of quarterbacks cannot save his team if the line cannot block. A powerful offense cannot lead a team to victory if the defense cannot stop the opponent’s offense. When teammates work together to hone their skills in practice and then put them to test on the field, they learn to respect each other, trust each other and rely on each other.
Take a minute to think about why industries love to recruit employees and leaders that have had a sports background. Leadership is a billion-dollar industry. Businesses pay for leadership training, and they pay to learn how to lead themselves. Go to any high school football stadium on a Friday night, and you’ll see more than a few leaders who encourage their teammates when the score isn’t in their favor. Leadership is learned in many ways, and in football, it’s learned early. This is why many of our successful business leaders and leaders in general in this country have a common denominator, a sports background that helped them develop these skills at an early age!
Most importantly I feel is football teaches young players how to handle both success and failure. Very few football teams finish undefeated, so at some point, they must learn to accept a loss. They learn not to blame the loss on anyone but to focus on how they can improve. Equally important is learning how to handle success. No one likes a poor winner. Someone who is gracious, win or lose on the football field grows into a co-worker or supervisor who earns the respect of his work team as well as clients and customers.
The team with the greatest natural athletes does not always come out on top. Sometimes the team given less at the start wins more in the end. If they are willing to put in long hours of work, trust their teammates if they are tough and fair, and if they play smart, they just might beat a team that is bigger, faster, stronger, and better than them. That is why football is not just a game unique to America, but also one that reflects the American Dream.
Ryan Dutton played college football at Minnesota State University-Mankato and was a punter in the National Football League. He is now a principal at Tioga High School in California.