By Derek Smith, FNF Coaches Contributor
The lessons coaches teach their players extend well beyond the football field. Establishing a culture in which the players consider the plight of those less fortunate will help make them better people. Inspire them to help out their friends and neighbors in the local community.
Football players at Westside High School in Anderson, S.C., do more than suit up each Friday night – they give back to the community.
Head coach Scott Earley says his team follows five guiding principles (spiritual, community, academic, physical and mental) and helping others in need is just one way it makes them better people and football players.
“We do a lot of that kind of stuff,” he said. “It’s a part of what we do.”
The Rams read to elementary school children, and volunteer with Special Olympics, March of Dimes and Relay for Life.
“(The five principles) are a wagon wheel with spokes. Our big thing is to give back,” Earley said. “Our kids just know this is a part of it when you play in the program.”
Earley said he tells his team that football doesn’t last forever, but the satisfaction of community service does.
“I think it makes them more humanistic, compassionate,” he said. “I think it keeps them humble, makes them grateful. Our kids have taken a liking to it.”
As 28 year-old teacher at Myrtle Beach, Earley said he decided to make community service a part of what he was trying to teach as a football coach. He acknowledged it probably began as a public relations tool for his team, but it soon took on a life of its own. He wanted to use the game of football in a positive manner and clean up the culture by giving back to it.
“I wanted to make the spiritual, academic and community pieces more important than football,” he said. “I believe good things happen to good people.”
This past spring, the Rams became involved with an 8-year old boy with autism who was having a difficult time in school.
With the help of the Westside players, the rising third-grader is more comfortable in school and is making friends with classmates who used to tease him, said Centerville Elementary teacher Teresa Sanders.
“To me it meant so much,” she said. “They were very well-mannered and it was a good example (to set). It takes a community to grow a child. We felt like this was a team we can be a part of in our own community. As soon as I asked, [Coach Earley] responded quickly.”
Sanders said the Westside players encouraged the autistic boy and his classmates to always do their best in school, listen to their teachers and make the right decisions.
Afterwards, the players went outside for recess and ran the track with boy, drawing a crowd from the other students at the school.
“All the other students wanted to be with them and run with them,” Sanders said. “It just really helped him. Once that happened and those guys came and did that there was more respect for [the boy].”
Earley said the boy is going to dress out with the Rams this season and they hope to throw him a pass in a game.
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