NFL Health Playbook will feature a guest columnist every week, each with a different viewpoint of player health and safety from the youth level to pro football.
By Amanda Rodriguez, NFL Health Playbook columnist
When I signed up my children for their first organized sports class in toddlerhood I wanted them to have fun.
A healthy relationship with physical fitness and socialization for my children coupled with the chance for me to talk with other grown-ups was what I was after. I didn't know they were going to fall in love with the games, I didn't know that they were going to want excel at them and I had no idea that athlete would be a word people would ever use to describe them.
Possibly, that was my personal lack of forethought. Probably, at this point, it doesn't matter because now the game has changed.
As we sit here with boys who are quickly growing into active young men, their entire motivation, and in turn, my own, for their involvement has evolved.
Yes, indeed, fun is a key element to playing sports, because once that is gone, the drive to continue will probably be lost, too. But beyond that, I love that the time they spend on the field is also one spent learning -- it's not idle time in front of a television. Their bodies, as well as their brains, are engaged in every moment of every play and it's that element that makes the time they spend on the field so valuable to me as a parent and to them as adolescents.
I'm certain that without their involvement in sports they would still grow up to be smart, contributing members of society, but football sure is a great way to support that.
Ten Life Lessons My Sons Learn From Football
1. How to be a part of a team. This skill is one that begins at birth, because when you think about it, a family is like a team. You have to work together, even when it's hard. You have to have each other's backs, even when you're angry. You have to pull your weight, do your part and make sure that everyone else makes it if you want to make it, too. Still, learning to do that for people you don't inherently love, for people you might have just met and even the ones you're not sure you like is a life skill that will serve them not only on the football field but when they are eventually figuring out the politics of an office or a marriage.
2. Accountability. This is a hard skill for kids to grasp -- it's really never their fault because it's pretty much always someone else's. Athletes get the opportunity to experience what it means to be accountable in ways non-athletes don't. From a very young age they have a job to do (tackle the running back, protect the quarterback, carry the ball), and if they don't do that job they know it, and so does their team. I love that they get to learn to take responsibility for their actions, good and bad.
3. How to be respectful. To their coach, to their teammates, to the other team, to the ref, to the water boy, to the team mom.
4. The value of physical fitness. This is one I have struggled with for my lifetime. I didn't grow up exercising for pleasure -- it was always something someone made me do to earn a grade or to prove a point. I love that my children have learned that being physically active is a part of a healthy lifestyle and that they want this in their lives. It will make adulthood more pleasurable, for sure.
5. How to stand up for themselves. And their teammates. They know that they are strong enough to be who they are and, while I did a pretty decent job teaching them that before they could tie on their own cleats, it is a skill that gets tested and reinforced every time they step onto the turf.
6. Leadership. What it looks like and how to be a good one.
7. How to make good choices under pressure. Thinking quickly under pressure is a skill they get to practice daily. That should come in handy in the unlikely (but totally not impossible) event of a zombie apocalypse.
8. Fortitude in the face of adversity. Losing is hard. Getting back up after you lose is even harder. We love a winning season as much as the next team, but the teachable moments that follow after losing are an invaluable part of the athlete experience. It's one that will help them prepare them for life beyond the game.
9. Citizenship. I love our football community -- the support, the camaraderie, the congregation around the snow cone machine on game day. The kids get to see what it means to work together, to build something with a team and to stay committed to its success.
10. Confidence. With this, they will enjoy a lifetime of wins, not just the one they got on the field today.
Amanda Rodriguez is a humor and lifestyle blogger at DudeMom.com. In addition to having a loose grip on reality, Amanda enjoys traveling to far off lands (or, not so far off lands) with her family and cheering herself hoarse on the sidelines of her sons' games. They will thank her one day, she's certain.