My husband was a varsity football coach for 20 years. As a head coach, he understood the tremendous advantages of building not a football team but a football program.
Football Fridays should not be yet another opportunity for "popular" kids (football studs, cheerleaders) to exclude everyone who doesn't wear a jersey or carry pompoms. A good Friday night football experience should include everyone who wants to be involved.
Sports lovers can take part in team activities. Beyond the coaches and players, the team needs a lot of help. People of all ages can volunteer to run the chains, dry off footballs and refill the Gatorade containers. Our daughter spent her childhood on the sidelines as Dad's "ball girl," making sure the ref always had a game-approved football.
Hate sports? So what. There are countless ways to take part in what should be a community experience, not just a game featuring a few talented jocks. A good football program brings pride to a community whether the team wins or loses.
Those who want to be on the field but out of the action, so to speak, can take photos or keep stats for the yearbook or for the school and team websites. Audio-visual buffs can handle the stadium sound system and scoreboard, videotape the plays or announce the game. Others can work the booster booths, selling concessions, programs and fundraising items.
And no football game is complete without the band. While the instrumentalists and band play in the stands and perform on the field, helpful volunteers can keep things moving smoothly. They can help get the equipment on and off the field, provide the band's third-quarter snacks and, like their football counterparts, work concession stands and fundraising booths.
Area businesses can do their part as well. Placing ads in the game programs or donating cash or prizes for drawings is a great way to get community exposure while also helping the school. Town storefronts can display signs of support. Local restaurants can contribute food, offer pre-game specials or host after-game gatherings.
Bottom line: There's a place for everyone at a Friday night football game. One of my husband's coaching mentors once said, "If you're on your way to a game and see a kid hanging out on a street corner, find a way to get him or her involved." Because football Fridays are not really about football at all.
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