I have had the opportunity to play football from elementary school to college. I have also coached football at the college and high school level.
For me personally, there is nothing like high school football.
In this week’s Coaches Corner, I wanted to discuss the significance and impacts of playing football on Friday nights.
What makes high school football so special to me is that it goes well beyond the scheme of the game and the Xs and Os. High school football is about so much more than just the game. I believe that it teaches kids life values and builds character. You learn so much and kids demonstrate great loyalty and camaraderie. You often build a lifetime network of brothers.
Once players get beyond their high school years, football becomes more like a business. Scholarships, coach salaries, Name Image Likeness, transfer portal, multi-million dollar facilities and major fan bases makes for a completely different environment in comparison to Friday Night Lights, especially in today’s world of college football.
There have been times where I have become very concerned that there are some high school programs that are taking on the business approach that college and professional football teams are doing, not not just living for the moment and taking advantage of every time they step foot on the field. A tough reality is most kids aren’t going to play football beyond high school. It is so important to appreciate the experiences you have in front of you.
There is something very unique about playing under the lights on Fridays. There are many college and pro athletes that will even tell you that “there is nothing like high school football.” If you close your eyes and try to immerse yourself back to your favorite Friday night experience, it may include moments like the smell of burgers and hotdogs on the grill or your favorite food truck, the school drumline getting the beat going or the sound of school cheers and whistles every time you blink.
For the athletes it would include the anticipation of the game throughout the entire school day, locker room hangouts for pregame, gearing up with your teammates, exploding through the doorway and rushing on the field to go to battle with your best friends and teammates. There are still times I get goosebumps watching Friday games as I recall the memories of my time as a player and realizing there is nothing quite like it!
High school football has always been about building a culture and solid foundation for a young person’s life. Many times, the principles and experiences can only be taught through the game and helps build a great relationship between players and coaches, relationships that go far beyond your high school years.
I was so fortunate to have some of the best coaches and teammates in high school. To be honest, they changed my life for the better. My biggest hope in watching athletes and coaches each week is that they have the same experiences and develop the same relationships that I was able to have.
As the weeks of the regular season continue to dwindle down, may all the athletes, specifically the
seniors, cherish just how special Friday Night Lights are.
Coaches Corner appears weekly at Outside the Huddle. The author Wes Painter played football at both Snider High School and Indiana State University. Following his playing career, Painter coached defensive line and special teams for the Sycamores before moving back to Fort Wayne. He served as an assistant coach at North Side from 2019-20.