7 Life Lessons Kids Can Learn from Football

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I have learned some life lessons by watching football.

I love football. Fall can never get here fast enough for me. As a father, I am sharing my love of the game with my kids. Watching football together is becoming a tradition with my boys. And even as it is a great pass-time and fun entertainment I am finding that there are some great life lessons that can be learned as we watch together. Here are seven of the really good ones that I have found:

1. Talent is not enough, you need to work hard

Talent will only get you so far, you need to practice and condition your body  so that you can let your talent shine. At each level of the sport there is a weeding out process. If you are talented in high school you may get a shot at college football. If you do well at the collegiate level you may get a shot to play at the professional level. At each level, the level of talent becomes more uniform, what separates those who excel is the work and effort that players put in to showcase their talent. The lesson we need to be teaching our kids as they discover their talents is the value of hard work and practice. Whether academic, artistic or athletic, talent may get their feet in the door, but their work ethic is what gets them a seat at the table.

2. Always Keep Trying

Football is tough, most of the time there is someone trying very hard to knock you down, to make you fail. Many times they succeed and that just plain sucks. But you have to get back up and go back to the huddle and try again. The lesson for our kids; you stand a better chance of winning by getting up and trying again.

3. Setting goals is how you succeed

Football is a game of inches. You are always scrambling for every inch of the field you can get. Trying to come up with one play that will get you the 100 yards you need for a touchdown is tough.  So since you get a brand new set of four downs every 10 yards you need to break it down into 10 yard goals. Each play should get you closer to that first down line. If you keep  making that goal you’ll be in position to score before you know it. When our kids are faced with big tasks or problems we need to teach them how to break them down into manageable goals so they can be successful.

4. Teamwork is the key to winning

Football is a team sport. Every player needs to do their job and do it well for the team to succeed. The quarterback needs to be able to count on his backs and receivers to move the ball down the field when he gives it to them. The quarterback, running backs and receivers count on the offensive line to make time for a play to develop and make gaps in the defensive line of the opposing team. Every player on the field has a job that the other players rely on him to do well so that their work is successful. It is a great way to illustrate to kids how teamwork actually works and how everyone’s role affects everyone else.

5. You are going to lose sometimes

You are going to lose sometimes, it is an unavoidable fact. Great football teams lose a game or two. An undefeated team is a rare thing. Most of the time the really successful teams have 1 or 2 losses. They don’t let those losses set the tone for the rest of the season. They accept them and learn from them and prepare for the next game with the intention to win. Learning to accept defeat and failure and move on with a positive attitude is one of the most valuable lessons kids can learn.

6. When you try hard enough, you can do great things

Every great play in football is a result of great effort. Someone trying very hard to do their job on the field. It could be that their effort was put in at practice or at the gym. It could be extra effort they used during or at the end of a play. Whatever the case, it is the extra effort that they put in that the other players didn’t that allows them to make or receive incredible passes, break off for big runs, stop other players from getting the ball or getting to the ball. Big plays are always the result of someone putting extra effort to do their job well. This translates so very well off the field. Effort is the key to big successes in life. The sooner our kids learn to put effort into what they want to be successful at, the sooner they will realize those successes.

7. Nothing lasts forever…

As soon as a team finishes one successful play or one disastrous play they need to start preparing for the next one. As soon as a game ends, win or lose, they need to prepare for the next one. As soon as the season ends the team starts preparing for the next one. Not everyone will be back. That play, that game, that season may have been a player’s last one. Planning for the future and remembering the past are important skills to have, but you have to be able to do your best in the moment you are in. In football and in life, it is the moment you are in that matters. Enjoy it, do your best in it—live it fully. Your success is determined in that moment, which will soon be gone.

(originally written for The Good Men Project.)

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