Many youngsters take an interest in football at an early age, particularly if their parents (mainly fathers) are avid fans. As you might imagine, the National Football League does everything it can to encourage interest in the sport, having found over the years that lifelong diehard enthusiasts start early, whereas those who start later are usually only casual fans.
Of course, many high school players want to get into the top echelons of the game, but with over a million high school players and only around 300 NFL openings every year, the chances are slim. The odds are probably not much better than winning the lottery. As one commentator put it, you might as well walk into a casino with $10 and a plan to win a million.
Not Just About Becoming Famous
However, football is not just about becoming a famous name throughout the country. The NFL and the programs that it runs are about developing people who can excel, not just in football, but in any walk of life. Playing football is something that is endemic in many communities who have leagues for young kids, and very many high schools have middle school and high school teams.
The NFL makes great efforts to foster an interest in youngsters from an early age, football having traditional values, and encouraging teamwork, leadership and commitment. For the NFL it is not just about next years’ draft, but helping to develop well-rounded youngsters who can become leaders in any field, not just on the football field. Football, in this sense, is just a medium.
Of course, the NFL has its programs for youngsters such as Pop Warner and NFL PLAY 60 to encourage interest early, but the real development process begins in high school. The NFL has its Player Engagement Prep program, and High School Player Development program which lay the groundwork for those whose ambition is to become a star, but of course, the vast majority will never make it to the top. However, they will learn skills that will serve them and their communities well for the rest of their lives.
Start At Local Level
In order to be able to take part in the sport in middle school and high school it is necessary to start youngsters off at local level. Many communities have local leagues and encourage youngsters to take an interest, and these are the starting point for parents who want to see their child taking part in the game. Once kids have learned the basics, they can go on to greater things when they get into middle school, and may even progress to the point where they are capable of being selected to play for the school against other schools – an achievement in itself.
Of course, despite the wishes of parents, not all kids will take to the game. Some may be more of the studious or artistic type and prefer other activities rather than the rough and tumble of the football field, and we have to accept that. Not everyone can become the next Jerry Rice or Tom Brady and some have no wish to.
However, it is never a bad thing to encourage kids to start at local league level. Who knows? They may surprise everyone, including themselves, and make it into an NFL team.