When you decided that you wanted to coach high school football, you decided that, beyond the thrill of the competition, you wanted to share your passion and teach a new generation of players the life lessons you learned from the coaches you looked up to.
Some of those lessons are timeless - the way sports help people deal with adversity; the way team leadership transforms into workplace leadership; the way young folks learn to value a thing greater than themselves. But high school football also provides a platform to teach lessons that are unique to the times we are living in now.
Social Media Responsibility
At this point, everyone knows the dangers of social media in the hands of impulsive teenagers, and many, many coaches take a Just Say No approach to the topic with their players. But some coaches are teaching players how to use social media, such as twitter and Instagram, to their advantage.
Just as every college athletic program uses social media to promote their brand, many recruited student-athletes are using it to build theirs. Yesterday’s handwritten thank you note after a campus visit has turned into a twitter or Instagram post, with photos and tags that put player and program in a positive light. When these athletes compliment the program they’ve visited, not only do the university’s stakeholders learn their names, but other interested schools tend to develop a greater sense of urgency in recruiting that player.
Players who aren’t going to continue their athletic careers also benefit when their coaches teach social media responsibility; by using platforms such as twitter and Instagram to support teammates and other programs in the school, these athletes gain an advantage in future employment, especially in the internships and career-related summer jobs they’ll seek within two years after graduating high school. With more businesses using social media searches with job finalists, young people who can be found with a record of responsible social media use will have a great advantage over peers who have succeeded at hiding theirs.
Relationship Awareness in the #MeToo Era
Across the country, many football programs partner with local groups in community service projects. At one school in Connecticut, the coach has partnered with community organizations to provide sustained education about relationship violence and healthy relationships. Players participate in workshops during the preseason, and the team dedicates an October home game to domestic violence awareness. Because the message about healthy relationships is connected across different points in the season, it can be a talking point between players and coaches when they’re having those discussions that aren’t about X’s and O’s.
One New York City area team faced tragedy a season ago when a cousin of a teammate committed suicide after a long history of bullying. Players and coaches banded together to use their role in the community to raise awareness and money, donating proceeds from an annual dunk-a-thon fundraiser to an anti-bullying organization, bringing the team closer to the community, and closer to one another.