by Bryan Zollman
High School football is back!
After so many uncertainties and back and forth proposals and eventually a lawsuit, our little legends of the fall returned to the gridiron this month with much enthusiasm and anticipation.
It’s been a challenging last seven months to say the least. After thinking a two-week shutdown would slow the spread, here we are seven months later and still canceling events, distance learning, and wearing face coverings wherever we go.
At least our student-athletes are able to wear the face masks they prefer on Friday nights. But it hasn’t gone without sacrifice. Coaches have had to prepare their team without holding two-a-day practices in August and only having two short weeks to get their team ready. Athletes were prepared to play in the spring, throwing a wrench into any athlete who plays multiple sports. A lot of football players in smaller towns opted to run for the cross-country team to stay in shape, only to find out their football season was resumed. I think these kids have a new appreciation for cross-country runners!
Most importantly, though, is that our student-athletes are together again. While many districts have gone with a hybrid model where kids are doing most of their schooling through a computer screen, being able to go to the field at 3 p.m. and strap on the shoulder pads and knock each other around a little bit can be very soothing for the athlete’s soul.
Most of these kids have poured a lot of time and effort into their sport, and football is no different. Countless hours in the weight room, early morning runs, eating a more healthy and balanced diet, working on technique, whether it be route running or run blocking…there is a high level of commitment by the athlete that gives them a sense of purpose. And being on a team gives them a sense of belonging, of being part of a brotherhood where every single person on the team carries equal responsibility in ensuring success.
Being part of a team is an extension of the classroom, an opportunity to learn life skills and lessons that are not necessarily taught on a white board.
My son was a senior last year. His favorite sport was baseball and he was looking forward to a fun spring with nine other fellow seniors on the team. That opportunity was erased because of the virus. But when asked about it afterwards, what he missed the most was just being with his buddies.
In this issue we feature some kids who are going to go on to big things on the football field. But the vast majority of senior football players in the state of Minnesota will play their final game this fall and never strap on a pair of shoulder pads again. They have waited for this final season their entire high school lives — the memories, the camaraderie, and the togetherness that the game of football provides is so meaningful.
Isolating kids from each other will have a far more detrimental effect on them than a virus. It’s great to see them back out on the field enjoying all the sport has to offer. I hope they are allowed to continue. Because right now, these kids need football more than they ever have.