High school can be busy, especially when you add a few football teams into the mix. Sometimes, during the winter season, I find myself standing on a field in the driving rain at training when I know I have a pile of revision awaiting me at home. Sometimes, I do wonder if I have overcommitted myself.
Yet I never regret going to football because for a few blissful hours I can just focus on the ball, the game and spending time with my team mates. That’s why I tend to placate my teachers and peers when they express concern over my time commitments; football helps.
There’s a lot of research into this-the positive effects of playing a sport on student’s attainment academically. Recently, American studies linked playing sport to the formation of stronger cognitive pathways and found that competitive athletes were more likely to obtain college degrees or apprenticeships. It is not uncommon for athletes to have phenomenal academic records. Some of the athletes who go through the US College systems have been shining examples of that and I have several team mates and friends who are exceptional athletes and academics. That may well be because they are extraordinary individuals but I can also speak from experience when I say that football is beneficial to my education.
That’s one of the reasons I miss it so much during the offseason, why I miss it so much right now. I once spoke with a coach of mine who told me that “a football field is a sanctuary”. I completely agree. For my generation the world is an ever-changing place. The pressures that social media and ever-increasing competition for university places and jobs place on us are becoming our defining factors. We need sanctuaries.
My team mates are like-minded people. Being a member of a team also allows you to devote your energy, for at least a period of time, to one goal; winning. Physically exhausting yourself for your team mates is not only worth it, but it is something to do other than worry or embroil yourself in “what ifs?”.
This year, especially, has been a disillusioning one. A lot of our childhood idealism has been dismantled by 2016’s events (prizes for guessing what’s at the forefront of my mind here) and sometimes there is no better way to escape it all than just playing a game. It’s a pretty common refrain, “it’s only a game” and although it’s supposed to condescend to some extent, I tend to agree. That’s why I love and rely on football. It’s only a game and because of that, it’s so much more. It’s a way to escape the simultaneously banal and stressful events of school or the anxiety of an uncertain future and still-forming sense of identity.
So yes, sometimes training makes it harder to hand things in on time. Sometimes it saps my energy but more often, football helps.
It helps because football teams are families and football fields are sanctuaries.
A lover of the game since the age of 4. Living and playing for club and school in Auckland and loving every second on the pitch (apart from the end of a losing match).