Even athletes who have reached the peak level of their respective sports can recall valuable lessons from their earlier days. Youth sports have a way of molding youngsters in ways that show up years down the line. For example, a moral learned at age ten at football practice could be used in an office setting at age 40.
In our youth, we unknowingly form the fabric of our future selves. And at least a few pro-level athletes - Donte Stallworth, a former NFL wide receiver, and Drew Stanton, former starting quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals - seem to be thankful for lessons learned on the football field during their school days.
Former Receiver Recalls High School Lessons
Stallworth served as an integral cog of perhaps the most prolific offense in NFL history - the 2007 New England Patriots. But before he starred at the University of Tennessee and made it to the NFL, Stallworth was a gifted high schooler willing to learn.
In a piece for The New York Times, Stallworth wrote that Mike Alberghini, his high school football coach, played a vital part in his success on the field and in life. As he grew up in a tough neighborhood in Sacramento, California, “Coach Al” professed the value of teamwork, commitment, and reliability. The importance of these lessons holds not just in sports but in life, he wrote.
Stallworth added that he believes the most valuable lesson from high school sports is that it teaches young people to try something different and, at times, truly difficult.
From Punt Coverage to Starting Quarterback
John L. Smith, the former coach of Michigan State football, shared with The Arizona Republic a particularly notable message sent by Stanton, then a freshman at the school. The young quarterback wanted to make an early statement for his new coach, so he volunteered to play special teams. The publication noted that Stanton eventually became the leading tackler on punt coverage.
“I think it went a long way in the locker room to show those guys ‘I’m going to do whatever I can to help this team’ by running down and trying to tackle somebody on punts, kickoffs, and all that stuff,” Stanton told the publication.
Youth sports coaches who know that the little things tend to show up in significant ways - like Coach Al and Coach Smith - can create lasting impressions on the young athletes they work with season after season. It’s one thing to talk about lessons like teamwork and accountability. It’s another to teach lessons and values that make an impact for a lifetime.