Dear President Obama:
I am a 17-year old high school senior who has proudly played football for 11 years. I read with great dismay your recent comments in The New Republic in which you state that you would have to “think long and hard” before allowing a son to play football. With all due respect, I couldn’t sit quietly on the sidelines as your comments kicked off a national debate.
Without a doubt, football is a dangerous game and I agree that it is even more so at the college and professional levels. More concerning about your comments, however, is the trickle down effect they will have on the sport at other levels, including youth and high school, where the number of kids who suffer serious injuries compares to those playing other sports.
Overregulation and parental concern could sideline many young players who could gain a lot from the experience. Thankfully, my parents, one of whom is an orthopedic surgeon, did not deny me this opportunity.
Football taught me that you could achieve almost anything through hard work and dedication. You don’t have to be the biggest, strongest, fastest or best player, but you do have to be the hardest working player, both on and off the field.
Football taught me accountability. In football, you’re accountable to your coaches, your teammates, and yourself. If you do this, you show that you can be trusted and you can become a role model for younger kids in the community.
Football is a bond that will forever tie me to my teammates and community. I have 50 men I can call brothers, and football brought together people in the community of different ages, color and socioeconomic status every Friday night to cheer us on.
Football taught me how to be a leader. By observing my coaches and former teammates, I witnessed what it takes to be a leader. As Dwight Eisenhower once said, “The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”
Football taught me that a key ingredient to athletic success is to work hard in the classroom; football made me a better student and academics made me a better football player. For a student-athlete to reach the pinnacle, it takes discipline, time management, passion and commitment. It also takes sacrifice. The determination that led me to excel in sports helped me to succeed in the classroom and will help me succeed in life.
My most rewarding memories involve football and I am forever grateful to my teammates, coaches and the game of football for these memories, which go way beyond touchdowns and Friday nights. For these reasons, and others, football is far more than a game; it is a lesson in tradition, teamwork, academic commitment and perseverance.
I would hate for anyone to be denied the lessons I’ve learned playing football. My sincere hope is that experiences such as mine will be taken into consideration if and when changes are made to the sport.
Nick Bookout is a senior at Gulf Breeze High School (FL), captain of his varsity football and basketball teams, and a National Merit Semifinalist. Bookout is the son of CFIF corporate counsel Renee Giachino.