Football has been getting a lot of tough press these days for multiple reasons from health concerns to team/player issues. As a long time observer of football, but one who never played, I have a few thoughts about the game.
My own children enjoy football. They like to play and they enjoy watching a game from time to time. While I do keep a close eye on the physical challenges related to the game, I also see many positives with regard to the playing the game as a young person. First, there's a great sense of team that comes from a high quality football program. The discipline, teamwork, and goal setting create strength that extends to other areas of life. Young people have lots of energy and drive, and when this energy and drive are given a positive outlet, good growth occurs.
Further, at a time when young people are less apt to listen to their parents, coaches play a critical role with regard to mentoring beyond the sports field and into other areas of life. This matters. When coaches make the time to coach and mentor well, players benefit. As a parent, it's great to have others helping you do the job of directing your teens and young adults in the right direction.
Also, Friday night football is a lot of fun. It's great to get outside on a nice night in the fall to watch a game with others in the community. It's fun to rally around a team, listen to a great band, and talk to one another.
Of course, the challenges to football are real, and can't be forgotten. As much as possible, the game needs to evolve to be safer so that concussions and injuries are a rarity. I think the game can evolve so that strategy dominates and harmful aspects of the game become little to none. Of course I can't say how this will happen since I'm far from being a football expert.
Also, football coaches need to continue to coach players beyond the field--they need to make sure that their players are getting good grades, accessing supports, solving problems with intelligence and cooperation rather than force, and following rules set.
And, football can't dominate a school system. Other sports and players need to have their share of the time, money, and attention too. There's many ways that a school can do this. For example, during a fall sports season, energy can be directed towards having one or more big events associated with each sport, an event that invites the whole community to come out and support the team. Similarly arts, academic, and service groups also deserve positive attention too, and every students should be encouraged to support each other in the multiple passion-driven, service-oriented, academic, arts, and sports activities that abound to build a healthy, dynamic teaching/learning community.
As one who never played football and from time to time as a head resident assistant at my college would get quite annoyed with the players in my dorm, I see another side to football these days as my own sons partake in the sport with enthusiasm.
Like most things in life, it's not one or the other, but instead it's the good balance, intent, and activity of an event or effort that matters. As teachers, parents, leaders, and community members we have to continually strive for a healthy balance to support all of our children with strength, care, and good result.