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THE TEACHING MOMENT IN FOOTBALL

Can The Old NFL Learn New Tricks?

via BoomerPDX

The Kid Game via BoomerPDX

The sports world looks down at the acts of some NFL players.

Even worse, fans suspect their behavior is just the tip of the abusive iceberg.

How many sports gods of the past knocked their women out or laid the lash on their young kids?

Do you really want to know if Super Joe Montana was a sidewalk angel and front room devil?

How could that be?

In spite of the crushing bad news from the Kings of the Gridiron, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell impersonating Hans Brinker with his finger in the leaky dyke of sour news, there’s at least one positive coming out of these dark days.

Multil-millionaire athletes may not understand what it means to treat those weaker than them with due respect, but they make great poster boys for youth sports. No one is more vulnerable than youth football leagues.

Before you ask, “Who’s weaker than an NFL player,” I’ll give one answer: Nearly everyone.

The weakest, wimpiest, non-kicker on any NFL team is a powerhouse. Just suiting up and stepping on a pro practice field takes a leap of faith most will never know.

These manly-men offer a lesson for us all, but especially the parents of Pop Warner players, and those about to play: learn it right and live right. It starts early.

If you’ve seen a grade school-age football game, one thing stands out more than anything else. Their helmets look huge.

How does a little kid with a skinny little neck hold their head up with that huge bucket strapped on? They get tough and strong enough to carry the load. That’s part of the game before the game.

Throw on the pads and you’ve got a miniature gladiator roaming the field. They look like the big boys and they love the feeling.

The wise parent leverages the sports feeling to remind their player they need to do well in school to play football. Add cleaning up their rooms and doing chores to the list and the game is working overtime.

On the subject of time, football wakes up young players to the idea of time matters more than they think. They take the time to get in shape. They learn to show up to practice on time, as well as how to run plays on time.

The clock becomes a constant reminder, and that’s a good thing.

Learn plays in time for the next game, the next season, the next school. Football encourages lifelong learning where former players apply the lessons they learned to the problems life presents.

What can a kid learn from poor NFL behavior? Make sure they hear other pros comment on spouse abuse and child abuse. Those guys are new hero material. Explain why Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice need time away to decide who they want to be next.

Will they be NFL players again? Not on the teams they left, which is also a teaching moment.

One of the difficult adjustments for young players is the idea of changing teams. The same guys they play with in grade school will change in middle school and change again in high school. College? The pros? One step at a time.

Changing teams from one year to the next help young players adapt to the idea of growing up without the added stress of moving out. Everything might change, but not dinner at home, not their room.

Take a moment during these troubled times to explain the most important part of sports, and football.

First there’s the game. Next is the game within the game.

Two players of equal talent might play to a draw, but one player who understands the bigger picture and their place in it has the advantage.

Take care of the opponent in front of you, then the additional assignments. If you finish your responsibilities before the play ends, find someone to knock down.

The game within the game says you’re never done. That works in sports, life, family, job, just don’t knock anyone down in the last three.

Football teaches the difference between hurt and injured, tired and exhausted, between winning and losing.

Experts say you’re a winner if you’ve done all you can do.

The scoreboard might say your team lost, but you’re not done.

While sports’ positives draw us closer and closer until fantasy football seems normal, remember how kids might interpret things.

The next time you’re around a young player, remind them how much they’re doing for football. It’s their game now and they need a good word to balance things out.

(written for oregonsportsnews.com)

 

About David Gillaspie
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