Why more people should play sports and what football has done for me

Bison offensive lineman Anthony Daley shares how football and life are connected in so many ways

Bison centre Anthony Daley (left) during a game against the Saskatchewan Huskies.Bison centre Anthony Daley (left) during a game against the Saskatchewan Huskies.

My name is Anthony Daley and I just finished my final year as a member of the University of Manitoba Bison football team. I was talking to the Manitoban, who told me I could write an article on something to do with football, so I’m choosing to talk about why more people should be involved in sports and use some of my experiences in football to give some examples of how sports have helped me in other ways.

Communication, teamwork, leadership, competition, hard work, failure, love, intelligence, toughness, friendship, brotherhood, passion, and trust are all characteristics that football has in common with life. I think that the lessons I have learned in football have taught me how to handle situations in the real world better.

I started playing different sports when I was five and have played football since I was 14. I’m now 24 and just finished my second and final season as a member of the Bisons.

Now, I know there are stereotypes around football players being big dumb meat sticks, and I’m not saying that isn’t true in some cases but, there is so much more to us than a desire to hit people until they don’t want to play anymore – one of my desires, at least when I play. I think football teaches you how to deal with the many challenges you encounter along your journey in life, almost like the challenges you face throughout a game.

Football teaches you how to work with others, whether it’s your teammates, family members, or co-workers. It teaches you how to respond to adversity; maybe a guy grabbed your facemask and dragged you down and it should have been a penalty but the ref didn’t see it. It teaches you how to be a part of a team, whether on the field, in the classroom, and even in the workplace. It teaches you how to be accountable and to hold others accountable, and understanding what is expected – making sure you do your part and your teammates do theirs. It teaches you how to be unselfish, such as running your route hard to open up another receiver, or how to trust your team, similar to trusting a loved one or family member, and how to perform under pressure, such as meeting a deadline for work or school.

Along with all of that, one of the most important things that football does for you is builds relationships that will last a lifetime. I’m speaking of personal experience when I talk about this.

There are a lot of ways I could try and explain why more people should get involved with sports in some capacity. However, I think the best way to explain it is to just tell stories of past experiences I’ve had through football that made an impact in my life away from the sport.

A friend and former teammate of mine from five years ago drove from Edmonton to Calgary to watch us play. We haven’t seen each other much over the last few years and we sometimes didn’t talk for months, but whenever we did we picked up right where we left off. Our common goal with football brought us away from our homes to B.C. where we met and now that we’ve taken different paths, we remain connected.

We were not only teammates but also co-workers, so you can imagine how much time we would spend together over a season. Football and any other sport in general really brings that type of connection out. This is only one example of the kinds of friendships I’ve made on my football journey. To all my friends who may be reading and thinking of a similar situation I’ve had with them, don’t be sad I picked just one. I could never forget all the connections I’ve made and how each one has helped me at some point in my life. To anyone who can relate and can think of my situation like this, then maybe it’s time to see what that long-time friend is up to.

At the end of the day what I’m trying to say to everyone reading this is that sports can change lives. It’s changed mine not only because of the friendships I’ve gained but the life experience I’ve gained in how to deal with people and work as a team. I was always a good kid that never caused more trouble than any other. I put all my effort and concentration into football and I am forever grateful for the lessons I’ve learned along my journey.

I believe my life has changed and the structure, discipline, and competitiveness has made me a better person. Football taught me at a young age that I had to prioritize, and if I wanted to play and have fun I had to work for it. I moved away to play and missed countless birthdays and family gatherings; being in B.C. for five seasons during the summer meant that I couldn’t spend my birthday with my family.

My priorities were different than non-athletes at my age. I feel like football has made me stronger mentally and now when I deal with something difficult I don’t panic. Thank you for reading and although there is more to sports than just what I talked about, I’m glad I’m able to scratch the surface on something that is potentially life changing for some people.