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Freedom, Family, Fireworks and...

Football. This 4th of July, celebrate all that you have to be grateful for thanks to the many service members who have, and still do, fight for our American freedoms. In my opinion, that includes the great game of American Football.

Backyard Football
Backyard Football - America's Game!

Many of us will get the pleasure to spend some extra time with our family and friends as we celebrate our country's independence. Some will hit the water to beat the heat, others will attend local carnivals and festivities, and most of us will find some bbq to enjoy before the fireworks fill the sky. But there's one activity I always looked forward to as a kid when our neighborhood came together to celebrate any holiday. Backyard Football.

Growing up, I was fortunate enough to have a big group of kids in my neighborhood who were all within 5 years of each other. After school let out, we'd all gather in someone's backyard and divvy up teams to play some sport - usually football, baseball or basketball - until we heard our Moms call us home for dinner. Some days the teams were big while others might be a game of 2-on-2, but we found a way to keep active.

As I've grown older and built a family of my own, I've come to notice that these backyard games are hard to find now and it's due to a number of reasons. Kids don't always attend the same school as their neighbors as open enrollment has shifted that paradigm, so schedules are often different. Year-round sports programs are occupying more of our time as the idea of an "off-season" is a thought of the past. And technology has taken over as electronic entertainment has run rampant. These are just a few of the many reasons.

But I believe the backyard neighborhood game still provides a great amount of value so I encourage it with my kids as much as possible. If there aren't enough kids around to field a game, I'll join them and help create a new game with the resources we have. And some times, once we get a game going others come out of the woodwork to join us, wondering what crazy game we've come up with now. I've spent hours playing all-time quarterback or pitcher just to keep the kids playing and having fun, and I enjoy every second of it. It's something my Dad did for me that I want to pass down to my kids.

As kids, we built up a number of life-long skills through our backyard games. We used our creativity to invent new games or introduce new rules. We overcame conflict (MANY of times) when one player claimed the ball was down, or the runner was out, while the other team disagreed. And we did it on our own without the need of helicopter parents fighting for "our best interests" to make sure the call went our way. And no matter what happened, when the dinner bell rang we'd all tell each other "good game" and plan to see each other tomorrow for the next game.

So this 4th of July, between hot dogs and popsicles, find time for a backyard game or two with the neighborhood kids. Toss a ball around, shoot some hoops, or come up with a fun new game that gets everyone involved. And recruit some other parents so they can see how fun it is to be a kid again. Through sports, we can build a stronger community.

Enjoy your 4th!

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