I’m writing in response to the high school football Other Voices column by Gregg Littell. My name is Bobby Simmons, and I am a Grass Valley native, now a 30-year-old resident of Huntington Beach, Calif.
Although I now reside in Southern California, I still call Grass Valley “home” and make frequent trips up there to visit family and friends. During my most recent trip for Thanksgiving, I had a chance to read Mr. Littell’s article regarding the “foolish parents” who allow their sons to play high school football.
As a former Nevada Union football player, I initially took offense to these words; however, as I read on, it became apparent that Mr. Littell’s words were coming from a place of concern rooted deeply in ignorance.
The first fallacy I noticed about Mr. Littell’s argument was in his implication that there is some kind of sinister-element to this game — particularly directed at quarterbacks, running backs, and receivers to “see if they can be taken out.” Immediately following this statement Mr. Littell cites the New Orleans Saints “bounty” scandal to support his argument.
Wait a minute. When did we graduate these teenage boys to the NFL? One thing that Mr. Littell and I can agree on is that this isolated incident was a serious ethical violation on behalf of New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton; however, to distort this in to some kind of epidemic is absurd.
If you’ve never played the sport, then you wouldn’t understand the mentality it takes to play it. To be honest, there is an element of wanting nothing more than to lay some good “licks” on your opponent and give them something to think about as they walk back to the huddle. That’s the psychological warfare of the game, and yes, I agree it’s not for everybody. However, in my four years of high school football, I never heard a single one of my teammates or coaches promote or condone the idea of seriously injuring opponents. Does it happen? Yes, but probably not to the extent Mr. Littell would have us believe.
Finally, if this was the case, then why is it that before any football game in America you can find a large group of players, joining hands and taking a knee in prayer for a safe and competitive game?
High school football, like many other high school sports, is a positive alternative to drugs, gangs, poor school performance, dropout rates and a number of other risk factors that all teenagers face nowadays. Many high school football teams require that players attend a mandatory study hall to complete homework before practice, and almost all schools have GPA requirements that students must meet in order to remain eligible for games.
Before we rule football completely out of your child’s high school career, let’s consider how many young men with below-average to mediocre grades received the opportunity to further their education through college football scholarships who otherwise wouldn’t have pursued such endeavors. If allowing your child to take advantage of a cost-free education by capitalizing on his God-given and self-determined talents with the rate at which college tuition is skyrocketing is “foolish,” then count me in.
The final and perhaps most significant point I’d like to make about high school football is the sense of belonging, camaraderie and unity that it develops among a group of guys who need it more at this age than at any other point in their lives. The sport teaches how to work as a team and overcome adversity. High school football is a brotherhood much like you could find in the military or law enforcement, and the friendships that will be developed are unparalleled.
Our high school football coach Dave Humphers uses the quote “Four years of commitment … 40 years of memories.” Well we still got a ways to go, but I don’t see the memories fading any time soon.
In conclusion, to those “foolish” parents who are actually considering allowing their kid(s) to play high school football, I would say this: Understand that football is indeed a “contact sport,” and therefore, there are inevitable risks that follow. But keep it in perspective, make sure these risks are understood, and weigh the inadvertent costs that may result from denying them this positive and extraordinary opportunity.
Bobby Simmons lives in Huntington Beach.
If you’ve never played the sport, then you wouldn’t understand the mentality it takes to play it.