High school football behind the scenes
Everybody knows how huge high school football is, especially in close-knit communities, but not everyone knows exactly how hard these athletes work.
These athletes start training in the springtime as a team for the actual season that's not until fall. They give up their summer for the game, wake up for practice at 6 a.m., then have to come back for another three to four hours for "two-a-days." Some of the more dedicated players start training for the next football season the day after the previous season's games end.
"Football has to become more than just a game to a player; it has to become a passion, and that is what makes a good team," said Wheatland Union High School senior and varsity team captain Tristan Avila. "You have to want to be successful more than you want the air that you breathe. To be good at anything, it takes hard work and dedication."
To most players, football is their life. They have been playing it since as long as they can remember, and it's a passion that they just can't even think about living without.
Many alumni players reflect back to their football career being the best days of their lives. They remember going to camps, the close relationships that they built with their teammates, the thrill of beating another team, the intensity of close games. They look back and truly miss everything.
"Football isn't just any other sport; it's something that you have to take time out of your schedule and dedicate the work to not only become a better football player, but a better person," said WUHS senior and varsity team captain Garrett White.
As of right now, football teams across not only this area but the entire country are looking forward to stepping out onto the field, under the Friday Night Lights, listening to the roar of the fans, feeling the energy in the stadium erupt as the plays unfold. You know that when you step onto that field, one team is walking away on top while the other walks away with nothing but disappointment and anguish. These are the moments that you train for, that you live for as a football player. You want the intensity and everything, both risks and benefits that come with it.
Once the season starts, everything's importance is drastically more substantial. Every play matters and has to be perfect, not only in the games but also in practice. The slightest mistakes — such as a misstep, not knowing your coverage, not sliding to the right hole — can mean the difference in a close game. Even something as simple as not wrapping up in your tackle could mean the difference between a first down and a fourth down, the difference between your team getting a possession or their team continuing their drive down the field.
So for most athletes, football isn't just a game — not just a sport — but a lifestyle and choice. They dedicate not only their bodies but their minds to this lifestyle. They know what's at stake, and they choose to play for nothing but the thrill for the fans and the love of the game. They don't get paid to play; they do it because it is what they want to do with their lives. Football is life.
Rafe Smith is a senior at Wheatland Union High School. His column appears every six weeks in Education.