By Joe Angelino
In the hot August dog-days all over Upstate New York, young men are sweating under the load of protective football gear preparing for their first game of the 2017 gridiron season. Each school district has other fall sports teams, boys, girls and co-ed, sharing in the same August heat. All of high school sports are important for the teenage learning process, but football is the only organized sport I played and feel scantily qualified to comment upon. My football skills were mediocre at best. Given my skill set, heavy and slow, my aspiration was to be an offensive tackle. But there was no way I was going to play with any regularity because of the luck of being a classmate with the late Tim Conron who also played that position with great talent. I did get some time on the defensive line, again my skill set worked well at plugging holes.
Here’s just a sample of what I learned participating in high school football. In the fall of 1977 I learned about “pulling guards” while working the “Purple D Line”. Falling into the pulling guard trap is best described in person, so I’ll skip trying to describe the jarring results in writing. But, the lesson learned about pulling guards has stayed with me nearly forty years. Many other lessons learned playing high school football stayed with me and most certainly shaped my adult future. Of course family upbringing has the greatest influence on the future personality of a child, and school teachers also have a large role with students becoming successful adults. But it is organized sports, coached well, that teaches life lessons that just can’t be taught in classrooms, or anywhere else.
The teen years are the last chance to develop a young person’s traits that will last for their lifetime, and football serves us all well in that respect. High school football demands personal discipline, obedience, mental alertness and physical toughness, not a bad trait among them. Unless methods have changed since my days, playing high school football is probably the first time in a young man’s life that he is taught how to perform a task, pushed hard to perform it better and disciplined with running laps, sprints or push-ups when not performing up to their capacity. In other words, if you don’t live up to your potential, you will pay the price for slacking off. The “one team, no individuals” concept in team sports, particularly football with its goal line at the end of the field, make a perfect analogy for just about any chosen career. Football teaches us not to be a prima donna, and how to deal with and persuade others to not be one. The young men on the field learn how bad it is to be accused of, or being caught giving, a cheap shot to an opposing team player. If you give a cheap shot, you will quickly learn payback is a …. certainty.