Growing up in a smaller town, I remember the Friday Night lights so vividly. The sounds of the crowd cheering, the smells of the popcorn from the concession stands and the seas of red and white spirit colors that were donned by our community, students and families across the city. We lived just a few blocks away from the local high school and I can still hear the roar of people when an amazing play was made by the football team. I didn’t understand it at the time, but as I have grown older and raised my own player as well as looking back on those football memories, I now can see that football is more than just a sport. It is something that brings a community together.
Growing Up Football
When I was in fourth grade we would drive past one of the local parks often and I can still picture the groups of elementary aged children practicing football in their pads and helmets. I remember the football memories vividly. The Junior Football League started small but quickly grew and fed into the other smaller school systems around us. Local parents volunteered their time to coach players around our community and families met every Saturday in the fall to cheer on their teams. The goal of the league was to teach the fundamentals of the sport but also encourage positive sportsmanship to young players. However, it was clear that these coaches, who poured their hearts and souls into their teams, really wanted to create a love for the game more than anything. The program turnover was small and the majority of these players grew up loving the game and playing all the way through high school. And many players went even beyond that. Saturday morning football games were a community meeting place where families gathered and cheered each other on.
We’re All In This Together
In high school, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t be on those sidelines cheering every Friday night. During my sophomore year in high school, the football team made it to the State Championship. Our cheerleading squad made banners for the team, created speciality signs for the players and staff and led the stadium stands filled with people from our community in loud cheers for the team. While we ended up holding the runner-up trophy after a rough last minute play, the spirit and support that was felt from across our town was undeniable. The homemade signs on the windows of houses, streets and stores stayed up, the spirit shirts continued to be worn by people all over the small city and the encouraging sentiments that were shared at every chance possible made it clear that this town was all in together – win or lose.
A Motivator Behind the Game
My husband was a football player growing up and says the same thing – the community is one of the biggest motivators behind the game. So when our son started playing flag football at the age of 4, it was only natural that he would get involved as a coach. My husband quickly learned the true meaning of “patience” as he coached a group of 4 year olds and attempted to teach them the basic rules of the game. But there was no score being kept, rather parents cheering on their sons and daughters and other teammates too while they all happily raced up and down the field having fun. This is what the game of football is about – supporting each other through every stage of the game.
We hit the ten year mark of living in our town this summer. My son continues to play football and one of our favorite traditions is cheering on the local high school team under those Friday Night Lights. It has been fun watching the community rally around the team as we sent them off to the State Championship two years in a row. Even after a tough loss last year, the spirit of the game remained strong in support of something that connects people all across town.
Whether it’s flag football or tackle football, a youth league in a town or a college playoff in a big university stadium, it’s the same game that continues to bring people together who may not have been connected otherwise. It’s the football memories being created. And that’s the good of football. It is the game that continues to have a positive impact on families.
Visit FutureForFootball.com to find a league near you and for other helpful resources.