S-U-C-C-E-S-S. Success. Thanks to countless days and evenings sitting in bleachers watching high school football games and listening to cheerleaders gleefully sing the “Success” cheer, this is the first word I learned how to spell.
Importantly, the game of football taught me how to achieve success and it’s why I’ve been engrained with the values of determination, perseverance, pride and humility in my life.
Football is in My DNA
My friends say football is in my DNA. The game runs through four generations of my family, beginning with my grandfather who was a high school football star in the city of Buffalo, N.Y., during the 1930s. He passed the passion to my father, who tossed the love of the game to each of his four children. My brother played high school and college ball and his son, my nephew, is carrying the family tradition by playing high school football.
My father’s primary job as a Western New York elementary school teacher supported our family but it was his passion as the head high school football coach that brought life and spirit to the family. From the time I was a few months old through my high school graduation, I spent most fall weekends watching his team play as well as watching his on-field demeanor. Sunday mornings were reserved for backyard football with the neighborhood kids followed by sitting in front of the TV watching, or tuning into the radio listening, to the Buffalo Bills game.
Almost like the postal service, my mom, brother and two sisters faithfully sat in the stands through sunshine, rain, sleet and snow in support of my father’s team through the good and not so good. There were years when the players had hearts of gold yet could only score a win or two a season. I’m sure my father was disappointed but on the field he rarely showed it.
Despite a loss, as long as the players gave their 110 percent, he was proud of the efforts they put into the game. When you’re not the winning team, you learn about sportsmanship and humility yet at the same time, you realize with determination and perseverance you can succeed.
And succeed is what my father’s team did. Following a slump of losses there were several seasons when the team was unstoppable. They had one heck of a defensive line that had the muscle to push ’em way back and an offensive team that had the agility and speed to run up the scoreboard. The team ranked number one in state and nationwide polls and my father was named the state’s coach of the year.
It took determination and perseverance to pull themselves from the bottom of the rankings to top of the national polls yet following each win, there was no gloating or bragging. Sure, there were fist pumps and cheering but he insisted on sportsmanship and humility.
These days, my father has retired from the game and my family still lives in New York while I’m in Southwest Florida. Technology shortens the distance between us because every Saturday during the fall I receive text updates about my nephew’s football games. Combined with tuning into Sunday Buffalo Bills games, my family football weekends are complete.
I can’t imagine a life without football. Being a girl, other than playing in a high school powder puff game, I wasn’t allowed to play organized ball when I was growing up, yet the game has influenced who I am today.
The values my father coached his team were the same values he brought into the home. Football has taught me the values of determination, perseverance, humility and pride which has made me successful in my personal and professional life.
Note: The above was my submission for the NFL’s 2013 Together We Make Football contest. I didn’t win and didn’t make the finals but enjoyed sharing what football means to me.