How many times have you heard oldsters say something like, ”I don’t know what the world is coming to. This younger generation just ain’t the same”? It seems like the older generation is often quick to say that the younger generation doesn’t have a work ethic; they are not motivated; they couldn’t pour water out of a boot if the directions were on the heel; they don’t know where they are going, or what they would do when they get there, and so on. It’s easy to criticize. Every generation faces that criticism from the previous one. I once heard it said that older generations are living proof that younger generations can survive their lunacy. It’s true. And each year around this time, I find renewed hope in America.
Working in the sports industry, particularly in football, I see a different side of the upcoming American generation. I see the older generation working with the younger generation, coaching them up on athletic skills, but more importantly using football to teach the life skills and values needed to live a successful life. The last two weeks of July are really the kickoff of the football season. But it’s not all that you think it is. There were over 300 camps from April to August where current and former National Football League players taught these skills to kids in their various communities across the country. They are using the sport of football to transfer the character and leadership skills they have learned to the next generation.
July 29th and 30th found us in Washington, DC in the shadows of the old RFK stadium attending an invitational NFL Flag football tournament for teens. All 32 NFL teams sponsored flag teams to compete in this first of its kind tournament featuring 14 and under girls and boys and 17 and under girls. Yes, girls. Flag football has opened up a whole new sport for women to take advantage of the values of football. Let me tell you, girls can play. I was talking to one of the referees during the tournament. He said that he refs football in New Jersey. His point was that the NFL Flag games were a joy to officiate because the kids and the parents were respectful and upbeat. In fact, he said that the kids playing sports these days have a fiercely competitive, yet considerate demeaner. He said worst problem was the parents. Imagine that?
Moving on to Canton, Ohio to the Pro Football Hall of Fame game and induction ceremonies. We were camping in Chris’s sister’s and brother-in-law’s lakefront home about 15 minutes from the Hall. Many do not know it, but there are several youth activations during Hall of Fame week. One was the free Play Football camp for boys and girls where Hall of Fame players and local high school players team up to teach kids the proper Way to Play. Over 300 kids from all across the country receive some football instruction and a lot of encouragement from these football stars. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” The training kids get from sports like football has numerous benefits and transferrable skills for a successful life. To me, it spells H-O-P-E for our country.