High School Football Needs to Happen This Year
By Sheryl McAlister
High school football needs to happen this fall. And the powers that be need to hurry up and figure out how that’s going to work. Because there is a lot riding on the decisions they make.
More than 3 months ago, everything changed. Forever. And if you fundamentally understand the critical role high school sports plays in the development of a young kid, there is much at stake as we determine where we go next. And how we get there.
Organized or recreational sports provide kids the opportunities to make friends, work hard, work with purpose, learn responsibility of keeping up with their stuff and showing up on time. If they are fortunate to have coaches who are also good people, they learn about discipline, character and sportsmanship and playing by the rules. They learn about leadership and appreciating that not everyone is a star athlete. That the kid who fills the water bottles is equally important.
I played for my Dad for many years in youth sports. I was not a great athlete, but an okay one. I loved playing, and I loved practice. I learned to tag up on a fly ball and that an assist is as good as a basket. Translated for those of you who never played softball or basketball: Squeeze the most out of every opportunity. And it doesn’t matter who gets the credit in a win.
These lessons stay with a kid. Heart and soul.
We cannot rob these kids of a 2020 season. School systems across this country have known since earlier this year that the fall season was coming. They knew COVID wasn’t going to be completely gone. And now, it’s almost July and there doesn’t appear to be a consistent strategy for how this will work.
Meanwhile, colleges are dropping the non-revenue producing sports daily to try to make ends meet. I get it from a business standpoint. Leaders have to make hard choices to eliminate those businesses that pull resources from the money makers.
Which brings me back to high school football. Football is the money maker. For everybody. If football doesn’t happen, the other sports don’t stand a chance.
High school basketball is the second money-maker, but a distant second. If football doesn’t happen, all of a sudden someone can make the case that tennis or lacrosse or baseball or soccer don’t need to happen. Decision makers will claim they don’t have the money to fund those programs. And then what about Title IX?
If we don’t have high school football, someone might make the case that no other high school sport matters. And I would bet everything the people making those decisions have never once found themselves on the winning side of a team sport. Never found themselves having a role to play on a team that – win or lose – did so together.
This is about something much greater than winning or losing or state championships. This is about what happens to the kids who don’t get to participate. The players, the managers, the ball kids, the band, the cheerleaders. The emotional toll. The physical toll. The psychological toll.
Sports are a way out for some kids to a better life that only an athletic scholarship might provide. Life changing opportunities that come with showcasing a skill on a playing field. We will lose some of them. We will. To drugs, boredom, another activity.
What happens to the good, decent coaches who look after these kids every single day? Do we lose them too? Are the coaches in the room when the decisions are made? If they are, is anyone listening to them? People making these decisions need to understand that they hold these kids’ lives in their hands. Their futures. Their emotional state of mind surrounding their own self-worth.
Get serious and figure it out.
Make no mistake about it, if there is no high school football in this country this fall, this country will lose its collective mind. So what, in the name of Vince Lombardi, is taking everybody so long?
Will it be different? Of course. Will a kid follow the rules if that’s the only way he or she can play? Absolutely. In fact, we underestimate this group of high school kids if we think they won’t do their part. If someone threatens to take away their ability to play ball – they’ll listen. And so will their parents. And they’ll look out for each other because everything depends on it.
College football and professional football are going to happen, no matter what. The pocketbooks of both depend on it. And those players are going to be just fine, even if fewer fans are in the seats.
High school football can be played without fans if it comes to that. And schools can make that much-needed revenue. I would purchase a season-long subscription to a YouTube channel that broadcasts the games if that was the only option. High schools could create a “television” contract and create a new revenue stream. Highlight reels could feature players, coaches, rock star band performances and cool cheer-leading routines.
It can happen. And it can work. But time’s wasting. Let’s get to it.
And let ‘em play.
© Copyright Sheryl McAlister 2020.
My uncle, Keith McAlister, shared the video clip below with me. Keith is a retired high school football coach, athletic director and principal. And a member of the Newberry College Athletic Hall of Fame, the Strom Thurmond High School Athletic Hall of Fame and Lewisville High School Hall of Fame. Click here to be inspired. I do not know the source/author.