6 Reasons Why Boys Should Play Football

Ronald Reagan, “Going to college offered me the chance to play football for four more years.”
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There seems to be an idea among some Christian homeschoolers that sports are bad, silly, or simply a waste of time.
I’ve even detected an attitude of haughty condescension at times, and the idea that, “I may not be athletic, but at least I’m not a dumb meathead and I have all ‘A’s.”
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I can certainly understand this, “geeks will inherit the earth,” sort of perspective. It’s a natural backlash to our culture’s unhealthy obsession with sports, and indeed, there are a lot of negatives that have arisen out of the sports culture. But are sports themselves, bad? Are sports to be avoided by Christians?

I played football for 11 years, basketball for 7, soccer for several, and lacrosse for 1. Sports have been more a part of my life than writing, or homeschooling even. In fact, I voluntarily attended public school so I could play sports, and if you know anything about me or have read my blog, you know my opinion of public school is less than stellar.
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This is not a, “Confessions of a Christian-homeschooler-sent-to-public-school-athlete,” article, which means I’m either stupid, crazy, a hypocrite, or maybe there was something about playing sports that justified my attendance at public school.
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I believe my participation in so many different sports and for such a long period of time gives me a perspective that many who have never played sports, don’t have. From the outside, sports can look pretty bad. Many athletes tote around gigantic egos, men put “the game” ahead of responsibilities and family, and youth and scholastic sports teams generally are environments hostile to God; however, sports are not the problem. The problem is the people involved—or more specifically—sin. So often we mistake things for being sinful, when it’s often how we use them that is right or wrong.
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I have been asked on multiple occasions by homeschooling moms my thoughts about sports (specifically football) and whether or not they should allow their sons to play. 

In a two-part series, I’m going to be going over a few reasons why I believe boys should and shouldn’t play football. 
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Part 1: 6 Reasons Why Boys Should Play Football:

1. Physically Demanding

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In my experience, no sport is as physically demanding as football. No sport demands the combination of endurance, strength, speed, and flexibility that football does. This is why football demands so much more time than any other sport. You’re lifting weights four days a week during the winter, conditioning and running during the spring, and practicing almost every day through the summer and fall.
I’ll never forget running “perimeters” as we called them. A full-out sprint around the perimeter of the football field with very little rest in between each sprint. Again and again we would go around until people started to throw up. On top of that, we would always run perimeters after our heavy leg workouts. After squatting hundreds of pounds of weight over and over, we had to go out and run sprints. Your legs would feel like lead. We all hated perimeters.
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This heavy physical demand not only helps to build physical strength, but mental toughness. In fact, it was probably more mental than anything. When you’re losing in the fourth quarter, and you’re tired, and you’re going up against guys who want to take your head off every play…it’s easy to back down, to give up. But all of the training you do is supposed to help build up the mental toughness to know you can make it out. You’re not in unfamiliar territory. You’ve been there before, and you know can make it out. I think this concept carries over into life beyond just football.
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Life offers a lot of challenges, but I believe playing a sport like football can help form a confidence and an understanding that challenges can be overcome.  
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2. Time Intensive

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Football requires a massive investment and commitment. I can’t count all the times I thought about quitting. Everyone thinks about quitting, and many do, but others stick it out. To be good, you have to spend hours and hours of time working out, lifting weights, training, and practicing. Playing football forced me to do hard things that I didn’t want to do, and I think this is a good thing for boys.
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Football teaches you to deny the desire for instant gratification, and to build toward a goal. It also taught me a lot about faith. I didn’t know if all my hard work would pay off, but I had to learn to do what I could, and not worry about what I couldn’t control. In the end, it was worth it.
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Surely, there are other activities which can teach these same ideas, but football is also a great medium. 
“Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t.”
― Jerry Rice
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3. Ultimate Team Sport

It has been said that football is the ultimate team sport. This is true. While most sports are about individuals, football is about teams. If one person doesn’t do their job correctly on a given play, the entire play could go for a loss, or much worse. Everyone has to work together, and you are only as strong as your weakest link.
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If you want to be a successful team, you have to learn to sacrifice for your teammates and be selfless. Your mistake could end up costing everyone. Likewise, doing something good can benefit everyone. Football really helps to paint a vivid picture of how we don’t live in isolation. Our actions impact others.
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“People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society.” – Vince Lombardi
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4. Violent

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This point will probably be hard for a lot of people to understand, especially my female readers, but the violence of football is also a good thing for boys.
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We all know that boys are energetic and like to play rough, and just about every boy dreams of joining the military and fighting battles at one time in his young life. When we look back at history, more often than not, this dream would come to fruition.
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In the Spartan culture, boys were taken to join the military at the age of 7. In the medieval ages, there were pages who would accompany and serve knights. In the American Revolution and Civil War, boys also participated in the combat. Boys have a natural instinct for violence, and this isn’t bad, though our culture sure tries to say it is. 
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Today, this masculine trait is under attack, and boys are punished simply for being boys. Oh, your 5-year-old boy can’t sit still in a classroom for hours on end? Drug him. According to the Center for Disease Control, boys are almost 3 times more likely to develop ADHD than girls. (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/adhd.htm) We are trying to say there is something wrong with many boys when there isn’t.
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The active and aggressive behavior of boys has come to be seen as a primitive and barbaric trait of a bygone age, and so now we’re trying to feminize boys and turn them into well behaved little girls.
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It’s no surprise that the left is pushing for this change in boys. These repressed boys will turn into weak and passive men without a backbone, easily pushed around by the Liberal agenda.
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While it may be true that we now live in a time where men don’t really need to be training for potential military service, the aggressive and violent nature of boys still exists, and it needs to be channeled in a productive direction.
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If this natural instinct that God gave boys isn’t channeled in a good direction, one of two things could happen:
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This violent tendency will be used for evil:
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“Women commit about 2.1 million violent crimes each year in the United States…By comparison, men commit about 13 million violent crimes each year.” – LA Times
It has been well documented that men are more violent than women. If boys are not taught how to use their aggressive nature for good, then there is a likelihood it could be used for evil. Playing football won’t ensure one does not commit violent crimes, nor am I saying a man is more likely to commit violent crimes if he hasn’t played football. This is obviously not true. However, football does provide a good environment for teaching and expressing this aggressive male nature in a healthy way.  
He will become a wimp:
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The other risk to not effectively channeling the aggressiveness of boys is suppressing it, which can stifle his growth into masculinity. If you want your son to be a strong man willing to do hard things and take responsibility and leadership, don’t discourage his energy, or make him think his aggressive nature is wrong—it simply needs to be harnessed. Certainly, boys need to learn to respect others, and how to behave well, but this should not come as the result of emasculating them.  
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While it is certainly not the only productive channel, football is a great way to exercise this natural aggression in boys, and to promote healthy masculinity.  
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5. Masculine

Football is the closest thing you can get to warfare. You have two teams (armies) directed and trained by coaches (generals and officers). There are different positions, and each player has a specific job to do (branches of military). Each team crafts a different plan to defeat the other (strategy) and every player has been taught techniques to help implement this plan and gain an advantage over their opponent (tactics). Throughout the game, each team calls a series of plays and makes adjustments to try and out-flank, out-maneuver, or over-power the other side—just like in warfare. Also like warfare, in football, you are going up against people who mean to do you harm. In war it’s “kill or be killed.” In football it’s “hit or get hit.” There is no sport that can mirror the clash of battle lines like the “kick-off” in football where each team charges across the full-length of the field to slam into each other. Women may call it barbaric, but I call it masculine, and it’s good for boys.    
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I’m sure this will be hard for many women to understand (just as there are many experiences that come with being a woman that I find hard to understand) but up to this point in my life, I’ve not experienced a better feeling than smashing into another guy at full speed when he doesn’t see you coming. Physically, you don’t feel much. Physics takes care of that, and instead, the other person gets lifted off the ground only to slam back into it an instant later. It’s an incredible feeling I can’t really describe.
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Those hits are the most fun, when the other guy doesn’t see you. But those are also easy. There are other kinds of collisions which take a lot more guts to carry out, the hits you deliver when the guy does see you coming. You see the look in his eye and you know he means to hurt you. But that’s okay, because you mean to hurt him too. That’s the part of the game that everyone understands. You never want to injure someone, but you want to hurt them. It’s fun!
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You feel those hits, more internally than externally. Your whole body absorbs and dishes out the impact. There’s just something thrilling about using your body so wholly and totally, giving all of yourself to help your team. There have been a couple collisions where I even saw stars. Yes, I literally saw stars. I couldn’t believe it. I thought that was just something cartoons made up, but it’s real. Not really any pain though. You never really feel much pain in those big hits, unless you get a finger smashed or something. It’s all just incredibly exhilarating, which is why I can understand it when I hear some war veterans talk about enjoying combat. It’s not because they’re evil, sick, or twisted, it’s because that’s the way men are created. We’re created to relish such violence because—in the dark and dangerous world we live in—we need men to be protectors and defenders of what is good and right and true.
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Yes, this violent instinct is often used for evil, but it was meant for good. Football is a good and relatively safe way to channel this instinct into something good. Boys can burn off their aggressive tendencies through football, while—if trained properly—football can also be a means to help cultivate this God-given nature into a force that can be used positively to help others. Football certainly won’t turn a boy into a man, but it definitely can help.     
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6. Microcosm

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In so many ways, Football is a microcosm of life. As the great Green Bay Packer coach Vince Lombardi said, “Football is like life – it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority.”
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As my other points have hopefully alluded to, football provides a relatively safe environment to learn about the realities of life.
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-Talent only gets you so far

-Hard work leads to success

-You’re going to fail, but you can’t dwell on the “last play”. You have to keep moving forward and learn —from your mistakes

-Don’t become over-confident when you’re up

-Don’t lose heart when you’re down

-Sacrifice in the short term to reap the greater reward down the road.

And so on.
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It’s better to learn these lessons and make mistakes while playing a sport while there is very little at stake.
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Not everyone who plays football takes these lessons to heart. Some people are good enough to just coast on talent. Some do let their mistakes get to them. Some do lose heart when they’re down. Some teams never learn how to work together. These players and teams ultimately end up the losers.
While there are certainly other hard, physical activities boys can engage in, I think there are few that offer as much as football does.  

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1 Comment

  1. As a mom of 2 boys – I 100% agree with you. My boys play football and they LOVE it!!!. They've described many of the things you have about it and the thrill and excitement of hitting the other guys and the respect and love they gain for their teammates. It's truly the most time consuming thing i've ever experienced with practices and such but I can see the rewards they are reaping. My boys are still young (middle school) but they definitely want to continue this. Great post!!

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