4 reasons to love high school sports

Game timeFootball season kicked off for our north Georgia high school Friday.

It. was. a. nail-biter.

Ultimately, our Generals fell to cross-town rivals but it was still a great game and I was proud of the players and coaches.

With all my yelling, screaming and standing up during the game, a spectator may be surprised to find out that in high school, I was always the “I have better things to do” type when it came to attending sporting events. Church was my spot … man was I spiritual (rolling eyes). And going to games just rarely made it on the agenda – I can’t remember but I bet I seriously had an agenda.  In short, I was a “hater” as we may have said at the time.

So, when I started dating a football coach after college and going to games, I was surprised I enjoyed it. As I’ve learned more about the culture and have now experienced at least two seasons under the Friday night lights, I’ve grown fond of the competition, the atmosphere, the get-togethers, and have even longed for the season to start.

Well, it’s finally here, and Friday night did not disappoint. It was great. Like my high-school self though, I know a lot of people who dread the hype. I’ve been there. And I agree sometimes the emphasis on sports vs. things like ya know, education, in the south is blown way out of proportion, especially for college and pro athletics.

But there are a lot of positives to consider, too. There are benefits that come with dedication to a sport, and in high school football where payout is $0 and glory is fleeting, the true nature and goodness of the game can be on display.

So, if you’re not going to support high school football simply for the love of the game, here are four reasons to not be a “hater” like I was.

  1. It builds community

Sports bring people together, all kinds of different people. You have your band students, cheerleaders, athletes and dancers. Parents drive from across town or down the road to watch the big game. Hundreds gather, united in support of the school. While in the concession line, I found myself chatting with a complete stranger about the game, students and so on. Now, small talk is not a strong suit of mine. It’s generally uncomfortable. But regardless of a person’s background, interests, and beliefs, I feel totally comfortable striking up a conversation because I know that if the person is there, we have this one thing in common.

I also have to say, it’s impressive and encouraging to see the hundreds of spectators and family members out to support their kids and friends. How awesome to have a weekly opportunity to show these students we believe in them and are proud of them.

  1. It’s good for the kids

John Wooden, famed basketball coach, said, “Sports do not build character, they reveal it.” That’s how I think of sports and their positive impact on kids.

Countless articles and studies show sports are tied to the growth and positive development of students’ confidence, social skills and health. There are, of course, other articles that highlight the negative effects of harsh coaching, high-pressure, performance-driven programs, helicopter parenting and injuries. However, if your child is part of a healthy, uplifting program, where coaches care about the well-being of students, I think the benefits are obvious.

Sports and other important extra-curricular activities like band and student government, breed confidence. They give a kid the chance to set a goal and obtain it. To fail, but rebound. To be part of a team and learn selflessness. And of course, to have some fun and make lifelong friends!

  1. It’s a legit excuse to eat concession stand food

For some this may be on the “4 reasons NOT to love high school sports” list, but for me, it’s awesome. I mean, where else are you going to eat a hotdog and Doritos with a side of M&Ms for dinner and feel great about it? Where else can you get a chick-fil-a sandwich and chili cheese nachos for a total of like $6?

I’ve not yet been to all the north Georgia schools, but the most interesting things I’ve seen are fried Oreos and fried Snickers. I’ll be on the lookout this season for the craziest or most interesting concession stand food, and will be sure to share if I find anything new!

  1. It provides low-cost entertainment

Finally, games are a low-cost, family friendly way to spend a Friday night. Now, don’t get me wrong, between parking, tickets and concessions, you could drop a good $15 bucks or more. But if you just want to grab a hotdog and enjoy, you’re probably going to get out for less than a movie ticket and get 3-4 hours of competitive, heart-wrenching action, live in the flesh and ultimately, in support of  the school and students.

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