Help Me to Remember High School Football
April 1, 2020 9:25 AM   Subscribe

First question on Ask. I searched for answers to my question but didn't find my specifics. Thanks for your help. I am looking for information about schedules for varsity high school football teams. Bonus points if you or your child play/played varsity high school football. Extra bonus points if your high school was in upstate New York. Extra extra extra bonus points if you played around 1997 - 2001.

I graduated from high school nearly 20 years ago. I did not play football, and I can't remember what the weekly schedule was for football. I'm working on a story and trying to work out where the football characters would be spending their football and free time. My questions are below.

1. Which days of the weeks were your games?
2. Did you practice on game days? If not, did you get together as a team to prepare? Or were you allowed to go home and then come back?
3. How did home vs. away games impact your time commitment?
4. Did you have team dinners the night before games? If so, would these be in addition to practice? Would everyone go home to shower and change and meet back up?
5. Tell me about pep rallies. Did your school have them and what were they like?
6. In terms of social life, what were the pros and cons of being a varsity football player? For example, compare the extra renown of being on the team vs. the time commitment involved.
7. Did you have to dress up on game days or wear your jersey to school?
8. What was your relationship with the cheerleaders? Did you buy them flowers or gifts or have a ritualized exchange?
9. Tell me anything else I'm missing about life as a football player.

Thanks for any insights into your life!
posted by cursed to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total)
 
My boys played in Westchester County NY.
1. Games were either Friday night or Saturday at 1:00pm (Depended on the opponent and if they had lights.)
2. No practice on game days. "Walk thru" the night before the game after a brief practice. Pasta dinner as a team.
3. The only difference between home and away was the bus travel time. Preparing might differ because some schools played on turf and some on grass.
4. Exactly. See above about walk thru.
5. My school did not really have them except for a playoff game once. Big bonfire with speeches and announcing player's names with cheerleaders leading the cheers. Major yawn if you ask me.
6. One of my sons was the starting quarterback. He already had a girlfriend. He was not hanging out with the jocks or popular kids. He was sort of his own man. Time commitment was not affected by popularity. My kids went to practice right after school, came home and did their hw. Same as any season. They also played lacrosse. (Daughter played sports too.) To me, time commitment is like if you were in a club that met everyday.
7. For lacrosse, the coach made them wear shirt and tie on game day. Football, they wore jersey on Friday regardless of game on Friday or Saturday. GF wore the other color jersey often. If it was a home game wearing say Red, GF wore the white away jersey.
8. Not sure.
9. My boys were often exhausted from practice and weight room sessions. Weight room sessions often at 6:00am. Also body was sore most of the time. They also ate about 10,000 calories a day back then without gaining a pound. I literally had a commercial refrigerator and was buying 3 gallons of milk every few days. Always had cold cuts and snacks on hand. As a parent, I think it was a great experience. They learned teamwork, to be competitive while also being sportsman like, learned many life lessons. It was a classroom on the field.

As a parent, I did a lot of driving to and from practice and games, went to every game and sat with the same other parents, supported them when they would come home down and encouraged them when they were playing. Both, now in their 20s still talk with their coach and other teammates on the regular.
posted by AugustWest at 9:56 AM on April 1, 2020 [1 favorite]


Time frame for above was circa 2012-15
posted by AugustWest at 9:59 AM on April 1, 2020


Early aughts, suburban NJ, marching band member.

-Games were Saturday mid-day, because most of the towns in our league did not have infrastructure for night games.
-Team members were encouraged to wear shirts on the Friday before; likewise, the cheerleaders wore their outfits.
-Away games weren't too much more of a time commitment beyond the bus ride there/back. The most annoying game was Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend (which I think they've since ended, probably due to parents' complaints).
-Pep rallies were once a quarter, for all sports--so, we had a fall sports pep rally, a winter pep rally, and a spring pep rally. Mandatory attendance for them, and some kids skipped.
-There was a Powder Puff game every year (football team cheered; cheerleaders played football).
-We were a fairly preppy school, so the top of the social hierarchy tended to be the soccer and lacrosse players, rather than the football team; nowadays, the school is actually struggling to field a full team.
posted by damayanti at 10:25 AM on April 1, 2020


I never played, but I'm pretty knowledgeable about the game, so I'll answer what I can.

1. Friday night is the traditional night for HS football throughout the country. (Hence, "Friday Night Lights".) As AugustWest said, there are occasional games on Saturday afternoons, but these are definitely the exception. A lot of kids will play their entire careers without ever playing a Saturday game. Kickoff is usually between 7 and 8pm, with about an hour of warmups before hand.

2. I've never heard of any football team at any level practicing on game day. For practical purposes, there wouldn't be time, but more importantly, you don't want to tire your players out before a game. You want them to be at their peak physical capability.

3. Echoing AugustWest again, it's just the travel time. You're only there for the game. It's actually fairly common for teams to eat on the bus.

5. This is going to be highly dependent on the school. Some schools do, some don't. In general, my experience is that there's a correlation between on-field success and enthusiasm for pep rallies. Good teams have them, mediocre teams don't. And by "good", I mean schools that have sustained success over time, not just one or two good years. "Traditional powerhouses".

6. This will also depend on the school. Personally, I went to a school (Ohio, 1994-1998) where football didn't matter much. White kids played soccer and black kids played basketball. Some of the basketball and track kids also played football (soccer kids generally didn't because the seasons overlap, but sometimes there was a soccer player/kicker), but that wasn't their primary identity. This was true even for kids who got football scholarships. But friends from other schools reported much different experiences.

7. The football team at my school always wore jerseys on game days. Some other sports wore shirt and tie. I played tennis, and we usually just wore the team t-shirt.

9. This will depend on the setting of your story, but in inner-city or high crime neighborhoods, a lot of kids play football as a way to avoid the streets. It's common for a successful native to return to their hometown and establish a non-profit youth football league, and then those kids all grow up playing together through high school. Somewhat related, but not limited to inner cities, is that a lot of football coaches approach the game pretty militaristically, and they see their job as to instill discipline in much the same way as a drill sergeant does. This is why so many football players join the military after high school - it's a natural carryover.

Life as a football player is hard to generalize because of differences between schools, and between kids. There are big private schools whose football programs are well-funded and resemble college programs with organized film study and stuff like that. There are other schools (often small and under-funded public schools) where they don't even have a weight room, and players just lift in someone's garage.

That's a point to emphasize. Weightlifting and football are pretty closely related. Some schools offer competitive powerlifting as a varsity sport, and that team is usually composed of football players. Most football players (but not all!) are pretty into weightlifting, and that was the primary aspect of fitness for football players in the late 90s.

Being in upstate NY in the fall, weather is a factor. Much of the season is played in really cold temperatures, but football jerseys have short sleeves. Some players wear a long-sleeved shirt under their jerseys and pads, but it's a point of pride for many to show their toughness by not wearing long sleeves. This is particularly true for linemen.

Upstate NY is not a hotbed for football, so there wouldn't necessarily be the focus on college recruiting that you see on a show like Friday Night Lights. Most kids in upstate NY know that they're not going to be playing high-level college ball.

Football players are like most athletes in that they love watching media about their sport. "Varsity Blues" came out in 98 or 99, and was huge. "The Program" is a movie that's not very well known in general, but absolutely revered among football players. But in general, there aren't a lot of good football movies for teenagers about football, which is partially why "Varsity Blues" had so much impact.
posted by kevinbelt at 10:38 AM on April 1, 2020


Not in NY, early 90's. Public school.

1. Which days of the weeks were your games?

Freshmen played Thursdays, afternoon. JV played Friday afternoon, Varsity played early evening. (Games certainly ended after dark, may have started around 5:30 or 6:00.)


2. Did you practice on game days? If not, did you get together as a team to prepare? Or were you allowed to go home and then come back?

No practice, you would have to show up say a half hour before the game.

3. How did home vs. away games impact your time commitment?

You had to show up earlier for an away game and you had to ride the bus back to campus after.

4. Did you have team dinners the night before games? If so, would these be in addition to practice? Would everyone go home to shower and change and meet back up?

No team dinners.

5. Tell me about pep rallies. Did your school have them and what were they like?

They had them for homecoming. I don't really remember them. If you said that a principal led it and let the coach and top player or two talk for a couple of minutes, and then the band played and cheer team did a few cheers, I'd say that sounds right.

6. In terms of social life, what were the pros and cons of being a varsity football player? For example, compare the extra renown of being on the team vs. the time commitment involved.

My school was about 1200 kids, 300 seniors. Lots of people to go around. Rather than extra renown, you were part of a group or a club with built in friends/acquaintances. Required time commitment was hour or so practices daily during the week, plus games. At that time, there were not year-round mandatory workouts. Top players worked out in the off season.

7. Did you have to dress up on game days or wear your jersey to school?

No requirement. We wore jersey on game day to school.

8. What was your relationship with the cheerleaders? Did you buy them flowers or gifts or have a ritualized exchange?

No. Informally, some players and cheerleaders knew each other and hang out / dated.

9. Tell me anything else I'm missing about life as a football player.

I'll second the "eat lots of food" comment above.
posted by bruinfan at 11:13 AM on April 1, 2020


I played in the 1990s.
1. Games were on Friday, except for one Saturday game that was rained out due to lightning. Some playoff games were also on Saturday. JV and junior high games on Thursday.

2. Yes, we generally had a walk-thru practice, running our most common plays during the athletics period in school. Helmets, but no other gear, was what we wore.

3. We had to travel alot so away games were extreme time commitments. Our bus rides were generally about 2 hours plus. Home games we had to meet at like 6:00 for an 8:00 game. I usually went home.

4. No team dinners, except if the bus ride was more than 3 hours. Then the school paid for the band, football, drill team, etc to eat at a buffet place like Golden Corral or McDonalds or similar fast type food.

5. Pep rallies yes. Last 30 minutes or so of school Friday before the game. The band would play some songs, the cheerleaders do some silly skits involving parents or students and a dance routine. A coach or somebody would give a short pep speech.

6. I went to a small school, so my time commitment was probably different, but practice lasted from 3:45-5:00. Then band practice twice a week after that. One act play and some UIL academic stuff had longer time commitments. I actually quit my senior year because of the time commitments vs game playing time, (I was a wide receiver that had to block a lot because we didn't throw the ball much - BORING!). There wasn't much renown unless you were an important starter. If you were, then think Varsity Blues as a documentary.

7. Dress up no. Jerseys all day on Friday only the week of home coming. Special pep rally and bon fire then too.

8. No special relationship with cheerleaders unless you were dating one. The cheerleaders in my school were mostly not ditzes or sluts as is the common trope. They were generally normal students, generally good gymnasts, and one was valedictorian of my class.

9. Honestly the amount of practice and the time vs the games wasn't great in my opinion, unless you were among the best players. The camaraderie was actually less than basketball or theatre or even track, because football is so much more goal focused and has less downtime. 2nd string was the opponent during the week, so you didn't spend time standing around, you learned some other teams plays and possibly played a different position to help 1st team practice. Worst part of the game is special teams by far. Kickoffs and punts. Nobody else has mentioned injuries, but ACL tears, other knee injuries, shoulder, and broken fingers and scrapes are very common. Saturday morning was spent icing minor injuries. At least one player on the team every year had to have surgery for some injury.
posted by The_Vegetables at 11:22 AM on April 1, 2020


You didn't ask but coaches: our staff had 4 full-time position coaches and an Athletic Director (head coach), usually all played at least some college football, and often at least one played in the NFL. They rotated through alot, because coach is relatively poorly paid vs Athletic Director. They were also teachers, and of varying quality. Our athletic director was also my Anatomy and Physiology and Physics teacher in high school. Our other coach was history, and we never opened the book the entire year, he just told stories every day.
posted by The_Vegetables at 11:28 AM on April 1, 2020


Friends played football. 1996-2000 in WV (which is a mildly big sport, at least 75% the students would go to a game a year). I hear that NJ and NY have much lower levels of school pride esp respect to footbal..

1. Which days of the weeks were your games?
Friday, only. Upstate NY (depending on how upstate), I could see Saturday.
2. Did you practice on game days? If not, did you get together as a team to prepare? Or were you allowed to go home and then come back?
Never practice
3. How did home vs. away games impact your time commitment?
Home games, you show you up 2 hours before game maybe to get ready. In small town WV away games could be 2 hours away, so leave after shool.

4. Did you have team dinners the night before games? If so, would these be in addition to practice? Would everyone go home to shower and change and meet back up?
Not sure.
5. Tell me about pep rallies. Did your school have them and what were they like?
Rarely for football. Maybe once a season.
6. In terms of social life, what were the pros and cons of being a varsity football player? For example, compare the extra renown of being on the team vs. the time commitment involved.
What else are you going to do? Study. LOL. Football players usually had some of the popular kids, but not always.

7. Did you have to dress up on game days or wear your jersey to school?
Jersey usually.

8. What was your relationship with the cheerleaders? Did you buy them flowers or gifts or have a ritualized exchange?
9. Tell me anything else I'm missing about life as a football player.
posted by sandmanwv at 1:58 PM on April 1, 2020


Appreciate all the answers and time. I realize that there were many questions in my Ask.

The variety of experiences is helpful. I only attended one high school, so it's interesting for me to see the commonalities and the differences among the answers. At my high school, sports were everything--but like several of you mentioned, upstate New York football lacked the cultural elements depicted in Varsity Blues or Friday Night Lights.
posted by cursed at 3:13 PM on April 1, 2020


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