Category Archives: Football

4 Great Sporting Role Models

With the 2015 NFL Kickoff Game on Sep 10 at Gillette Stadium between the New England Patriots and the Steelers, we had a lot of talk about football and its importance at home. The kids were playing Heroes and Rivals while we were vociferously talking about sports and our favorite sporting heroes.

No one will argue about the fact that sports are important for kids. It contributes to the development of the child’s mental and physical wellbeing. Role models are also very important, especially in these times when society’s structures are changing rapidly. When kids are young they naturally look up to the parents and caregivers as role models. As they grow, teachers become important influencers. All these influences help shape a child’s behaviour, how she or he handles relationships, and it also helps them make decisions. Ironically people also use online games to get kids interested in sports!

Over time children who need these early influences look outside the obvious circles to characters from books, TV personalities, sports personalities and sometimes even video games, for suitable role models. Sporting role models are some of the best for kids. This keeps them interested in sport, which is great to keep them healthy and fit. Sports teaches kids, fair play, losing gracefully, to get up and go after a fall, to build unexpected friendships, improves self-esteem among many other things.

Here’s a list of four great sporting role models for kids(even my wife might have a different list!):

Mia Hamm


“Mia Hamm signing an autograph” by momovieman – mia hamm and nomar garciaparra. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons –

She is the most famous woman footballer(soccer for us). She is one of the two female footballers in the FIFA 100, commemorating the 125 greatest living soccer players.

Her first coach and father took a long time to let in to play. Until then she was a ball girl for her older brother and sister. Once she was let in, there was no holding her back.



“Pelé jump 1958” by Scanpix – Licensed under Public Domain via Commons –

He is just plain O Rei do Futebol, in Brazil his home country. It means The King of Football. Named after Edison, he got called Pele sometime in his career and the name stuck. He retired 1977 and ever since has been a worldwide ambassador for football.

John Urschel 

John Urschel

Image Credit:

This 6-foot-3, 308-pound top notch offensive guard who plays for the Baltimore Ravens, absolutely loves math. In fact he published a very difficult to understand paper in mathematics.

He might not make it to the list of a top tier role model yet, but I like the fact that he is the great mathlete of football. He is young, tenacious, committed, patient enough to visit schools, and understands how important it is to share all this with younger folk.

Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay


“StangoAli” by John Stango. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons –

He is one of the world’s greatest boxers. Nicknamed ‘The Greatest’ he is one of the most recognized sports figures in the last 100 years. Crowned ‘Sportsman of the Century’ by Sports Illustrated, he became the World Heavyweight Champion at the young age of 22.

Who do you think are great sporting heroes who would make great role models?


Endorse guts, not meanness

I like Mark Edmundson for two reasons – he writes great essays and he has written a book about Why Football Matters. Football is big in America. Little kids play football. Big burly kids play football. It’s a way out of poverty for many kids, thanks to college scholarships, which support footballers, but push them to keep up their grades if they want to continue playing football.


Dsc_0198 by Brian J McDermott

Building Character

Playing football is a great way to build character. Camps like NFL Play 60 Character Camp help kids learn football, understand healthier lifestyles and get doses of character lessons that equip them with important life skills. Football can toughen kids. It teaches kids to get up after every fall. Resilience becomes a way of life. Humiliation might be a part of this toughening, but for most kids, the goal is to get back up on their feet.

The Dark Side

While building courage in football, it is easy for kids to go over to the dark side. In the process of toughening up, a mean streak might develop. That is where coaches step in. A good coach watches over his wards with a hawk’s eye. Team spirit is good, but the team must not swallow the individual. Courage must not darken into brutality. Team spirit must not deteriorate into a rowdy act. Coaches draw lines, and by that teach kids to draw lines. Lessons learnt on the field, help kids do the right thing both on and off the field.

Getting kids to Play

The summer is when a lot of kids start their football days. Parents want their kids to play for fun, character building and many other reason. Belts on helmets are tightened and eyeball to eyeball tough looks are given. Hurts are soothed and encouragement is shouted. But then there are many kids who don’t start off with an interest in football. They would much rather play pet games or spend time on virtual games. In such a situation, it is for the parents to start playing with the kids. Making play a habit, encourages kids to get outside the house. It could start with family, and then include friends. Once kids have a taste for play, it is hard for parents to get them back in. Then football, is just the next step!

This summer, get into the habit of playing.

Does the NFL off-season matter?

NY Giants Rookie Mini-Camp

33-year-old Marine veteran invited to NY Giants rookie camp by MarineCorps NewYork

Yes, the off season matters. The 95th year of NFL began in September 2014 and ended in February 2015. Preparation for the 2015 season began as early as April, with voluntary offseason conditioning programs. In July the training camps will start in all seriousness.

Between the end of one season and the start of the next season’s training camp, NFL teams chalk out nine week programs for their players. The conditioning programs are mostly in 3 phases:

Phase 1 has players in physical rehabilitation, strength and conditioning programs.

Phase II includes field workouts with players. No contact and, no offense versus defense drills.

Phase III includes organized team activities. During these 10 days, teams are not allowed drills with contact, but teams are allowed a lineup of defense versus offense. During this period, teams can also have a 3 day mini camp.

Layered over this off season training, is a special schedule just for the rookies. Every team holds a rookie minicamp on the first or second weekend after the 2015 draft. Apart from this, teams schedule a seven week rookie development program usually held at the team’s facility. This is a coming of age training – from college to professional football.

Football Games for Kids – Who Plays Them?

Surprise, surprise. Football games for kids are no longer just for kids as older folks get on the online football bandwagon. What is it about football games that has caught the attention of grandkids and grandparents alike?

Playing Safe

Football games for kids are safe and easy to play, offering the excitement of the game while keeping aside the physicality of the game. This is good news for young children who are too young to play the rough game on field and older folk who cannot afford to risk injury.

The Tech Factor

The rise of interest in online games is also because more and more people own mobile phones, tablets and computers. Hence, the games are easily accessible. Factors that hamper going out like weather and distance don’t come into play when one is playing football games online. Technology also benefits folks who may be homebound due to health reasons.


Owen teaching Dad…” by Jordan Brock is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The Social Angle

There was a time when online gaming was considered a solitary activity. But this really depends on the choice of games. Many seniors play football games online on multiplayer platforms as it allows them to connect with other people across the world from the confines of their home.

This is also a great way for grandparents to bond with their grandkids who may not be living nearby. Kids can actually show them how to play and turn playing online games into a shared experience that strengthens their relationship with their grandparents.

Time to Play

Seniors have more time in hand. Due to their accessibility and easy controls, online games are a convenient option and a fun way to spend time. They are more interactive than reading books or watching telly.

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computers” by Jody Morris is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Health Kick

Kids aren’t the only ones who benefit from playing online games. Older folk also reap many benefits from playing games like football. Regular social interaction even if it is via games can boost the happiness quotient.  Online football games can improve executive functions, cognitive skills, memory, coordination, quick response and also offer mental stimulation.


More talking with Grandma” by Lisa.B is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Apart from these football games for kids, for those grandparents who are looking for something more cerebral, there are plenty of puzzles to explore. They can also challenge their grandchildren to a game of Scrabble, DrawSomething and other games. Technology, once again, has emerged to bridge rather than widen the generation gap with gaming.

From Heroes at the Colosseum to Heroes in Mobile Games

Sport was one of the most popular forms of entertainment in ancient Rome. Armed combatants called gladiators in the Roman Republic and Roman Empire would entertain a tightly packed colosseum with violent confrontations with other gladiators, wild animals, and condemned criminals in the presence of their emperor. Gladiators, who reached the height of popularity under their emperor Claudius, either fought to death or till the first shedding of blood, and would eventually place the decision of the outcome of the fight on the emperor. He would then either signal death with a raised fist with the thumb sticking out upwards or deliver mercy with a raised fist with no extended thumb. Most of these gladiators were either slaves or came from socially marginalized races and would fight till their last breath to exemplify the Roman martial ethic of ‘fighting or dying well’. The heroes of this violent sport have been celebrated in both high and low forms of art and commemorated in the Roman world though they were mostly treated as social outcasts during their lifetime.


Coliseo, Coliseum by Vicente Villamón is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Other sports such as cursus (running), lucta (wrestling), pugilatus (boxing), pentathlon (consisting of jumping or leaping, the foot-race, throwing of the discus, throwing of the spear, wrestling), and pancratium (a combination of wrestling and boxing and martial arts) were also common sports in ancient Rome. Violence and bloodshed were two common threads that linked one Roman sport with another. Records say some Roman heroes were felicitated while others were segregated even in death.

Sports on the field


2012 0921 JPII football 17 by Tim Donovan is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Today, sports have evolved. Though there still exist, violent sports like rugby, wrestling, and boxing, they are played adhering to strict and fair rules and regulations. While the winner is commemorated, the loser is not humiliated either. Events such as the Olympics and World Cups offer fair ranks to first, second and third runners up in case of tournaments with many teams. While wrestling and other fighting sports have evolved into Krav Maga, Freestyle boxing, Judo, and kickboxing, soccer and football have evolved into modern day rugby, freestyle football, Paralympic football, futsal, cubbies, flag football, and more. You’ll be wrong if you thought these sports are played only on the fields and indoor arenas. With evolution, they have moved beyond and further. They have migrated to electronic gadgets such as our phones and tablets and taken the world by storm. Children who are shy to take to the fields and prefer to watch these sports on television sets have started to play such participatory sports.

Sports on mobile phones and other electronic devices


“Worm Attack!” Mobile Game Helps Rid Communities of Intestinal Worms by USAID U.S. Agency for Inter is licensed under CC BY 2.0

GameDay Heroes is an app from the NFL stable aimed at getting kids on board. It can be played over a Wi-Fi connection with friends and family. The game consists of multiple football-based mini games that give children the scope to indulge in participatory sports. The game acquaints kids with NFL teams, jerseys and other gears, and allows them to dabble a little with shadow football. In a nutshell, it gives children a chance to explore the world of football and grow an interest for the sport in the most encouraging and entertaining way. While “Spot What’s Not” is a mini Game Day Heroes game where children have to spot the differences between two scenes straight from a football field, “Scrimmage Swap” is a tile swapping game where NFL helmets act as the different tiles. Anybody and everybody can be a hero in this mobile game, without shedding a single drop of blood or having to fight it off in real life on the field in front of a tightly packed auditorium!

It has been a long journey for sports – from the Colosseum to phones and tablets in young hands.

Taking American Football to Europe

I was surprised to see the spread of American football in Poland. This is one game which has not spread rapidly outside of America, however loudly we cheer our ‘world champions’. The European League never really took off. In fact most of the world calls a completely different sport as football!


Image Credit: J J Hall

There are other games like basketball and rugby which have caught on elsewhere, but our football has found it hard to leave our shores. Perhaps its the expensive gear or it could be the fact that the world already has a sport called football which is very-very-very-very popular across the globe. When good players emerge in the small pockets where American Football is played, the stars move to the center of the ‘football galaxy’ which is America. That works against the development of the sport where the star developed. Like a football-talent-drain problem!

Our football is a true blue American game – most players are either born or groomed here, viewers are American and other viewers outside our borders are generally American expats. The European league was set up to popularize the game. It failed because it did not catch on at the grassroots.

There is an IFAF Federation List which is long and well populated with leagues in 64 countries and they even have a World Cup. Something which really helps in popularizing the game is NFL’s new strategy to play one regular-season game in Britain every year. One thing is for sure, I have read that the Super Bowl parties have increased!

6 Football Games Families Can and Should Play


Image Credit: Ian Hughes

If raising a brood of couch potatoes is the last thing you want, ditch the T.V. and take up these fun and free football games your family can and should play. You’ll be spending more time together, laughing, playing and exercising without even knowing it!  Are you ready for kickoff?

Football Tossing Contest

NFL season has just started and it’s time to host your own football game. Invite everyone to a friendly contest in your backyard – the person who can toss a ball the farthest is the undisputed football champion. If the weather forces you to host the game indoors, use a soft foam football and toss it into a basket or through a hula hoop. Everyone gets five attempts – the player who makes the target the most times wins. If you’re cooped indoors for any reason, you can also play fun and free football games on your mobile! It’s certainly not the same as stretching your legs outdoors, but it’s more interactive than staring at the TV!

Flag Football

You can play this for fun or competitively. Just divide players into two teams and have everyone place colorful socks from the elastic of their pants or shorts. Unlike a normal game of football, players must tackle offensive opponents by pulling the socks from their waists. The game can be played with a predetermined number of points or with a timer.

Hot Potato Football

Invite everyone to sit in a circle. Designate one player as the “caller” who must close his or her eyes while the others pass around a football a. k. a. hot potato. When the caller calls out “Stop!” whoever holds the football must leave the circle, which is why the players pass along the ball as fast as they can. The game continues until only one player is left. This player is the caller for the next round.

Wacky Football Race

Divide the players into two teams and have team members link their elbows. Hand a football to each team. When the whistle blows, the teams must make their way to the finish line without dropping the ball or unlinking elbows. If they do this, they must go back to the start line and begin the race all over again.

Football Relay

Split the family into two teams and give a football to each team. When the whistle blows, one player from each team must push the football with his feet from the start line to the finish line and pass it on to a waiting team mate. The first team to finish the relay successfully wins the game.


Invite everyone into the backyard and have one player stand about 20 feet away from the others, holding the ball. At the word “Go!” the player with the ball throws it towards the others. When it’s up in the air, he must call out a number between 50 and 500. This is the number of points earned by the player who catches the ball. But players lose points if they drop the ball. The first player to score 500 points wins the game.

My family loves playing these free football games so much, every single holiday is NFL season!