NFL, Education, and Correctional Work: A Better Blend Is Needed

Honor Warren Wells TheTorch@dbintayaelSenior Writer IIApril 19, 2009

NEW YORK - MARCH 11: The Official NFL Ball is seen on March 11, 2009 in New York City, New York.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Football and Society: A Better Blend is Needed

On one end of the spectrum the United States is doing well; on another we are headed toward a crisis. There may be more young people locked up, than locked down to learn the skills to negotiate society. 

Glance at the charts and see the dismal reality of our correctional efforts in this country. Too many young people (and old ones, too) are headed to correctional facilities.

Chart No. 1

Chart No. 2

Chart No. 3

Can the love for a good sport help people learn life skills that would minimize chances of being in correctional institutions? Here is one answer provided by an expert:

"Football teaches important life lessons from dealing with adversity and developing a strong work ethic, to learning the value of teamwork and building character."

The life flow for some of my students has had hurricanes, thunder and rain, trouble and pain, hardship and strain.  Then, as one lady said on Apr. 17, 2009, "My mother, father and sisters put me out of the house..after returning to jail and drugs so many times..."  Finally, she testified, she changed. 

The new Sheriff for Harris County was present and she promised on the microphone, "Sheriff, I will never, ever return to jail again."  As a two year college student in a program called TRIO, which is funded by the U. S. Department of Education, this lady said she received the coaching, love and support of an extended family, and she changed.

The attributes of good coaching in (NFL, college and high school) football are sounded out, again:

"Football teaches important life lessons from dealing with adversity and developing a strong work ethic, to learning the value of teamwork and building character."

The professor repeats a precept or concept to get the attention of the students (readers) and to promote "retention and comprehension." 

So this B/R scribe repeated what football teaches. 

Observations

1. If young people have a strong work ethic then their attraction to crime is minimized.

2. If young people respect the value of teamwork, then, it is believed, crime is minimized.

3. If young people have had coaching and experiences to build character, then their chances for success in America will be optimized.

4. If we can put our heads together and think of a strategy to blend what we believe the game of football teaches with the qualities we need to successfully negotiate a "good and functional" life in America, we just may minimize the number of people locked up in correctional facilities. 

Programs like TRIO are doing an excellent job of helping some of those who have had trouble in their lives.  The reality is that this type of intervention is coming into the lives of people after much struggle and pain. A better blend is needed to provide more intervention at earlier stages of life. 

A quote is revealing:

Dr. Jason Wingard of The Wharton Sports Business Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania and included data from the ESPN Sports Poll, the National Federation of State High Schools Association participation survey, College Sports Television's 2006 NCAA Division-I recruiting base, the National Football League and the 2000 U.S. Population Census.

The study ranked all 50 states and the District of Columbia based on five different criteria: percentage of professional football fans (Mississippi ranked 21st), percentage of college football fans (15th), percentage of varsity high school football players divided by the state's male population 15-17 (3rd), percentage of signed NCAA Division I recruits for 2006 divided by the number of 11-man varsity high school football players in that state (7th), and the percentage of NFL players in 2005 divided by the number of 11-man varsity high school players in the state (8th). The states ranking in the top 10 included (in order of finish) Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, Ohio, Alabama, Texas, Virginia, South Carolina, Kansas and Florida.

The final observation is that Wingard's study ranks Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, Ohio, Alabama, Texas, Virginia, South Carolina, Kansas, and Florida in the top 10.  The top 10 states are precisely the states that are called to action for a better blend in expertise and strategies to help the next generation of Americans learn what the game of football teaches: "a strong work ethic, to learning the value of teamwork and building character."

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