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How Football Changed My Life

Fall can’t come soon enough. I’m not talking about the pumpkin patches or the infamous Pumpkin Spiced Latte, although I am sure those have some merit as well. I’m talking about the change in weather, and those in the know call it “FOOTBALL weather.”

Like most football fans, I spend the entire year anxiously awaiting that first kickoff. I play fantasy football. I follow twitter accounts. I make sure I have the right online package for all of the coverage, and when we are living in the US, I go see some games. I watched a little high school football the first time I was stationed in Texas. I always try to attend an Illinois State University game (Go Redbirds!), and though it is a trickier event to attend, live NFL games have a special magic about them as well.

Every level of football has something to offer — to the players and the fans. From peewee football to smaller college games to the Super Bowl, these same three puzzle pieces work together to create a game that is a huge piece of American culture. I bring to you: The three C’s of football.

CAMARADERIE

I spent my early schooling years at a tiny, Catholic school. There were no opportunities for sports at this school and, at the time, there weren’t many organized options in my neighborhood. Admittedly, it was a very poor, private school, and it no longer exists, if that’s any indication. Conversely, my wife informs me that our children are signed up for things like Kindergarten ice hockey, toddler fencing, and infant rock climbing. That wasn’t the case back then!

After having transferred to public school, you can imagine my excitement when I saw a flier for football tryouts! LOL … I’m being facetious here. I was “big” for my age, and my mother dropped me off in a field. I didn’t realize until much later that she had enrolled me into a city football team. This was much to my horror due to the fact that at the private school, the closest I had been to sweating or a PE class was an episode on The Brady Bunch. (It was syndicated by then. I’m not that old.) To put it mildly, I had no experience in the sport other than what I watched on Sundays with my stepdad. I immediately got over my concern with sweat, after realizing I wasn’t bad and that I had just made a new set of friends.

I’m not going to say I was the best one on the field or I was responsible for a clutch game-winning play that year. I will tell you this though. I spent that year learning about hard work, dedication and putting the good of the team ahead of the individual. I learned to practice so hard that I could barely drag myself home but went to sleep dreaming about doing it again the next day.

I went on to play football through my freshman year in college. Aside from a strong work ethic, the best thing I gained from those years on a team were the friends. We spent hours together on the field, in the weight room, and on a travel bus. We celebrated the big wins and mourned the bitter defeats. Most of all, we worked together toward a common goal. I am fortunate to have been a part of those football teams.

This was me… long ago.

Friends, even when the pads are off.

COACHING

My high school football coach played a significant role in my adolescence although I am not sure he knew it. In a time when there wasn’t a lot of consistency in my life, my coach and football were my constants.

I could drop in his office during the day when I needed to get something off my chest. He knew how to keep us in check after a hard game. He worked us hard on the field so that we kept football as our focus and stayed out of trouble off the field.

Coaching is a full-time job. It isn’t a way to get a little extra money during the school year, and those who think of it like that won’t make it. Coaches act as mentors, as motivators, and as role models. A football coach not only has the job of putting together a winning team, but he is also creating good men who set examples for others.

To this day, I hold every other leader I have had to the standard of that coach. I didn’t know my coach’s first name until I saw it in a yearbook years later. However, whenever I saw him, or if I see him this very day 20 years later… I’ll most definitely call him Coach. He left a lasting impression. I didn’t realize this until I was in graduate school years later. I kept thinking of our program director as “coach” and finally acknowledged this was because he held those same qualities as that coach from long ago.

Coaches, keep doing what you are doing. You have worth!

Photo credit: Trinity University Athletics

COMMUNITY

The final C in this puzzle is the community created by football. There are so many levels to this.

My wife attended a high school in St. Louis that is famous because they play a Thanksgiving Day football game with a high school from down the road. The Turkey Day Game started in 1898 and is known as the oldest rivalry west of the Mississippi. The winner takes home the coveted Frisco Bell. The important part about this tradition is that alumni bring their families back year after year to watch this game. They get together for brunch, dress in their school colors (she is on the orange and black side in case any St. Louis natives are reading this), and attend the game. Even if you aren’t from one of the schools, it is good football!

I continue to stay involved in college football, too. Sadly, I can’t attend every home game these days because of our military lifestyle. However, I find community online and look for fans wherever we are stationed. There is always a place to watch a game. My wife thinks it is strange that people can be so emotionally attached to something that doesn’t directly involve them (which is ironic because she is the only person EVER to receive a virtual red card at our daughter’s under-7 fútbol games).

But we ARE connected. I remember the bonds formed, like the ones I have gained as an Airman. I borrow qualities from my football coach to expose and build leaders in the Air Force. The military and football communities are quite synonymous with “all for one” and “team.” Former athletes crave that and fans love being a part of that. But football fans get it. Football makes it feel like you are a part of the game, even when watching the game from thousands of miles away.  

Being stationed overseas, there are not a lot of opportunities to watch live American football. The Armed Forces Network does play recorded games later, and we try to stay off social media so we are surprised. However, the Super Bowl is always live! The military makes it a priority to show that game to the fans. People in Italy, England, Germany, Guam, etc. get together at odd hours to eat good food, enjoy friendly banter and conversation, and most importantly, watch football (or the halftime show, if you are like my wife).

Proud moment as I take my daughter to her very first Redbird game.

Football has made a positive impact in my life through camaraderie, coaching, and community. I am grateful for what this game has done for me — as a father, a friend, and as a member of the Armed Forces.

Editor’s Note from Christy Curtis, co-owner of Military Moms Blog and wife of Kwame Curtis, our guest blogger today. As a Clinical Psychologist (and Kwame’s spouse!), I can, without a doubt, attest to the positive impact football has had on his life. I don’t always get the rules of football, and I mostly love watching it on TV for the good snacks, but I can say without reservation that the sport has had a tremendously positive impact on my husband, his upbringing, and the way it has shaped the man he is today.


Kwame Curtis is an Air Force dad and father of three. After four years in South Texas, his family is currently stationed in the United Kingdom and his 6-year-old may never forgive him for the change in climate. He loves to drag his kids to famous sites all over Europe, feed them local food from different countries, and teach them the important things in life, like the words to every Michael Jackson song.

The National Football Foundation (NFF) launched Football Matters, to celebrate the positive impact the game has made on millions of players, coaches, administrators, volunteers, and fans nationwide. Debuting in February 2018 at www.footballmatters.com and on social media, Football Matters spotlights and explains the many benefits that football brings to communities, schools, families, and individuals and the opportunities it provides to those on and off the field and at every level. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

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