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Football: Life Lessons in Brotherhood, Integrity, and Sportsmanship

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Stories, know-how, and guidance from the experts in educating boys.

Matthew Proffitt

Football: Life Lessons in Brotherhood, Integrity, and Sportsmanship

We may be entering the “dog-days” of summer, but here on campus at Avon Old Farms, the private school for boys, we are anxiously awaiting the return of the “boys of fall”. Autumn in the Farmington Valley is certainly a sight to behold, but there are few things more synonymous with the season than high school football. At Avon Old Farms, we’re committed to nurturing and educating the whole boy and find that learning opportunities present themselves both inside and out of the classroom. Four key tenets guide our curriculum: Brotherhood, Scholarship, Integrity, and Sportsmanship. Athletics, and more specifically playing a team sport, is such a valued component of our educational ethos. 

As someone who owes so much to the great game of football, I cannot find a better arena to learn about and exhibit our core values than being a part of the football team at the New England boarding school Avon Old Farms. Each day I continue to draw on lessons learned and benefit from relationships made while playing football. My experience on the gridiron has contributed so much to my development as a man, educator, and coach. I believe coaching football is the best opportunity I have to pay it forward and influence others. I have relationships with brothers that I played with/against and acquired several lifelong leadership skills and abilities that I attribute to the game. For me, a season’s success is not measured in wins and losses but measured by how many of our players leave our program with those same experiences that I experienced growing up.

Football is so much more than a game. Football provides an outlet and an opportunity for student-athletes to push themselves outside of their comfort zone and learn much about their strengths, weaknesses, will, and abilities. Avon Old Farms positions itself well in athletics by competing at the highest level while using the time spent working together as an opportunity to teach our student-athletes about brotherhood, integrity, and sportsmanship.

Brotherhood

Athletes that take part in the football program at Avon Old Farms will become part of an organization that is bigger than themselves. Each player must commit fully, to serve the program and the school to the best of their ability.  A successful team will always have the motto, “what’s best for my brother, is best for me.” While working towards a common goal, each player will be held accountable for their preparation, performance, and work ethic. Peak performance requires everyone from the coaching staff to the parents, supporters, and most of all, the players to do their part—no matter how big or small. 

There is no “I” in the word, TEAM: joining and becoming a part of the football team will help a student throughout the rest of the school year to be successful. Students—especially new students—will make an immediate connection to other young men who are facing and tackling some of the same challenges at the same time. They will also have an immediate connection and commitment to AOF as they adorn their Crimson and Navy each Wednesday or Saturday. The relationships formed in the locker room and on/off the practice field will often be long-lasting and impact their lives for years to come; furthermore, players will be linked to a powerful network of past Avonians.

Integrity

Avonians continue to impact their communities, workplaces, and families. They are governed by a strong moral compass calibrated while on campus at AOF.  Lifeskills such as discipline, persistence, strength, competitiveness, selflessness, and teamwork, are taught in conjunction with offensive philosophies and defensive schematics. Leaders will emerge in the form of captains and in other capacities. Their leadership ability will be tested often. The ability to follow and take direction will become imperative as well. Football, unlike anything else, is able to bring people of all different backgrounds and skillsets together in search of a common goal. Our founder, Theodate Pope Riddle, so eloquently stated that “the ways in which we differ are more important than the ways in which we are like.”  A healthy locker room should have the highest level of tolerance, respect, and inclusivity where all differences are valued. Teamwork is key to the success of any organization, and each member of the team must know that the person standing next to them is willing to sacrifice, work, and persist in order to reach the goal. 

Sportsmanship

While football has a reputation for being rough, tough, and rugged, sportsmanship plays a crucial role in team development. There is simply no room for a lapse of judgment when it comes to how players conduct themselves on the field, off the field, on the sidelines, or in the stands. Athletes are clearly instructed by the coaches, athletic directors, and the rest of the administration that anytime they wear our school colors, they are representing our school, community, and all of the students that have come before them. With that said, football provides daily opportunities for athletes to exhibit true sportsmanship. From always playing by the rules to simply picking up an opponent from the ground. The Avon Old Farms football team has a long, valuable history of being both fiercely competitive, and great sportsmen. The NEPSAC, our league’s governing body, holds its teams to high standards with regards to exhibiting good sportsmanship, and all of the heads of schools meet perennially to discuss both its importance and how we can continually improve. Success can only be celebrated if it is achieved within the framework of the rules and the game’s intention. Therefore, our student-athletes will be held to the highest standards at all times.

In this video, the Avon Army rushes the field after the Winged Beavers clinch the Erickson League title!

Key Takeaways

At Avon Old Farms, football continues to be a mainstay and a tradition. Our participation rates continue to grow, and all of our decisions are made with the boys’ safety in mind.  Despite facing many successes and disappointments, I can promise you the following:

A Winged Beaver will be pushed, oftentimes further than what he thought was possible. But, he will be provided a soft place to land with much support and encouragement. 

A Winged Beaver will face long days and will be asked to overcome adversity. But, he will have the support of his brothers and coaches behind him each day.

A Winged Beaver will gain confidence each day as he meets these challenges, gets stronger, and finds success.

A Winged Beaver will be part of a team and will be connected to our AOF community in a truly meaningful and lasting way.

A Winged Beaver will learn to persevere and see something all the way through from beginning to end.

 I am most confident that any young man will have an incredible experience on the Avon Old Farms football team.

Again, I owe so much to the game of football, and I hope to see several generations of Avonians have an experience like mine. Each new season brings with it a new opportunity to build a strong brotherhood and add to the rich tradition of Avon Old Farms football. We will ask much of our players in hopes that they find the value in their hard work and dedication; therefore, I close with this powerful video and ask our players to consider how far they are willing to push themselves.


About the Author

Matthew Proffitt

MATTHEW PROFFITT

Math Teacher, Asst. Varsity Football Coach

proffittm@avonoldfarms.com