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American Football

As the new school year starts, this means one thing is on many Americans’ minds: football. The start of the NFL season, NCAA season, and highschool football means huge crowds, great games, and an amazing atmosphere. Let’s talk about the significance of football in all aspects. 

Football is a very American sport, but it has its roots in variations of rugby and soccer that were played in the 1800s. Intercollegiate matches became popular in the late 1800s and in 1875 Harvard and Yale played the first intercollegiate match of a game that was ten most similar to rugby. A Yale undergrad, and later medical student, Walter Camp, was instrumental in changes to the game and its rules. Camp is known as the “Father of American Football”. This style of football grew in popularity and spread to other colleges and high schools across the United States. In 1920 a professional football league was created, which later became the National Football League (NFL). Football is now the most popular spectator sport in America, with more fans that baseball, which is known as the American pastime.

What is football? To Americans, this question might seem funny, since it is the most watched sport in America.To oversimplify, football is a sport where two teams compete to score points by taking a ball across the opponents goalline. The team in possession of the football is called the offense. The team without the ball is the defense and tries to defend its goal line. For various reasons, the defense can take possession of the ball and then become the offense. The other team then becomes the defense.   Each player on each team has a role to play. For example, a quarterback controls the ball and can hand it off another player, throw it (pass it) to another player, or run it himself. Receivers catch and run the ball. Offensive linemen protect their man carrying the ball. Defensive linemen attempt to prevent the offense from moving forward with the ball. The details of each position are more than can be explained here.

My journey in football began when I was in junior high school. My friends and I would always talk about the San Francisco 49ers, our local pro football team. We would read about them, watch the games, and imagine making the plays. Pro players are fast and strong, and use their skills to take the ball, score points, win the game, and become sports heros. It was exciting and I wanted to be part of this sport. I was happy to find that my choice of high school, Junipero Serra, had one of the top football programs in the state of California and had a history of developing great ball players. One of them is Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. In my freshman year at Serra, I joined the junior varsity (JV) football team and became a Serra Padre. The Padre is the school symbol. Unfortunately, there were many boys with more experience, so I did not get much playing time that year. The JV coaches, however, helped me to learn the game and find a position that best suited me – defensive end. As a defensive end, you are usually one of the first through the line of scrimmage to take down the quarterback and simultaneously one of the last lines of defense in preventing the other team from scoring. You have to not only cover your position in the backfield and guard your opposing player, but anticipate where the other team will take the ball and find or make opportunities to take the ball from them. In the offseason I ran,  lifted weights, and watched videos of football games to better learn my role on the team. By my sophomore year, I felt ready. I was bigger, stronger, and hopefully more knowledgeable. In the beginning of the season, I still did not get much playing time, but as the coaches began to trust me and see how much I had improved, they gave me more and more playing time. By the end of the season, I was a starting player and felt that I had made a great contribution to our winning season and league title. I was now ready to move up to varsity, where the struggle to be a key contributor will begin again. No matter what happens, however, I know that football has given me more that I could ever give back. I have learned a lot about hard work and developing confidence, but more importantly, I have learned about team spirit and making friendships that will last a lifetime.

My experience is not unique. The benefits of a sport like football are multitude and can positively affect the lives of the teenagers playing. Football, like many other sports, has great health benefits, including cardiovascular and strength training. You develop a work ethic, setting high standards and developing the discipline to meet and exceed them. You learn teamwork by working with others to achieve goals. Through football, you are taught leadership by learning from those who come before you and guiding those who come after. But football is a time consuming sport and to excel both in it and in school you will have to learn time management skills. Through shared sacrifice in adverse situations, you will also build camaraderie and lifelong friends. Finally, highschool football can be very helpful in applying for college.

Universities place a high value on great football teams, because successful teams generate huge profits, while most other sports lose money. One financial website reported that football brings in an average of $31.9 million dollars per college per year. This money is used to cover the cost of sports facilities, coaching and scholarships. Successful programs make enough to pay for the unprofitable sports. Some schools may cover all or part of your tuition and living expenses if you play football for them. By the NCAA rules, football can provide 10-20 times the number of scholarships as most other sports. Unfortunately Ivy League schools do not give sports scholarships. But being recruited to play a sport can almost guarantee acceptance to the school of your dreams. Even if you are not recruited to play college football, participating in the sport in high school can help bolster your extracurricular activities list. It can show leadership, teamwork, and discipline. These are things colleges look for when selecting applicants. 

In conclusion, football is part of the American experience. In the United States, football is the top spectator sport. During football season, you are likely to find the average American attending or watching games on a regular basis. Over 100 million watch the Super Bowl, the final pro game of the season.  Keeping up with your favorite team makes you feel a part of a community. You come to work or school on Monday morning ready to talk about the big game from the past weekend or the upcoming game next week. You don’t have to play the game to enjoy it, but playing the game can help you build fitness and a strong work ethic, as well as leadership and time management skills.

About Allen Bryan

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