High School Football Matters

Steve Arenas Uncategorized

SHARE THIS STORY: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+

Most of my education experience has been interconnected with sports. I was a student-athlete in high school and continue to be a teacher-coach now. While I’m in my 8th year as a classroom educator, I’m in my 10th year as high school football. I began coaching JV football at 20 years old, two years before I earned my first teaching job. In fact, in 24 hours, I will have completed my first year as the head football coach of my very own football program. I am tired. Better yet, I am exhausted.

Obviously, I am a fierce proponent of high school sports. However, in my years I have encountered colleagues with a vast difference of opinion. More recently, those who oppose high school sports claim it’s a misguided use of already slim school budgets, and that it’s misguiding students’ priorities.

However, I argue that high school sports not only transform lives but save lives. I have a young man on my team who is currently a junior. He played football for my program as a freshman and sophomore; he’s a raw talent and showed promise of becoming a great high school football player, possibly even earning a shot at a junior college scholarship.  There is only one problem; his grades.

Although this young man was on the team for two years, he only played 8 out of a possible 19 game because of his grades and off the field issues. Coming into his junior year, he understood that if he wanted to live up to his on the field potential, he had to change. He needed to remove himself from certain groups of friends and commit to getting better in the classroom.

During the end of his sophomore year, he did just that. My coaching staff and I even began to notice his odd transformation unfold. This young man turned into a leader. He earned the respect of his teammates, began passing his classes, and made a commitment to lead his team for his junior season. Then the unthinkable happened. In routine play during summer competition, this young man tore his ACL – an injury that required surgery and ultimately ended his junior season before it even started. It’s evident that football gave this young man a purpose. It was his reason to change. However, with his junior season over, my staff and I feared that he would revert back to his old ways.

This week is the final game of the 2019 season. This young man is still on the team and is still recovering from his injury. And although he had no chance to play this season, he kept his academic eligibility for the entire season – a feat he had yet to accomplish during his time in high school. Some may argue that this is a result of the maturation that occurs during these years. However, I know that this young man needed football. I know that it saved him, and more importantly, he knows that it saved him.



My name is Steven Arenas, and I’m a proud product of Arizona public schools. I’m currently in my 8th year as a high school English educator. I spent the first four years of my career in the Tolleson Union High School District; however, I currently teach Freshmen English in the Phoenix Union High School District. This year is also unique in that it is my first year as the head football coach at my high school. I earned both my BA in secondary education and a master’s degree from Arizona State University. I also serve as a teacher consultant for the Central Arizona Writing Project and am an active member of the National Council of Teachers of English. In 2016 I was a recipient of the NCTE Early Career Educator of Color in Leadership award. This opportunity proved to be a transformative moment in my teaching career as I was able to engage with likeminded teachers, scholars, and authors from across the country. In the future, I aspire to become National Board Certified and earn my doctorate degree. My passion for literacy was cultivated by the contemporary voices of the Chicano/a Renaissance of the 1960s. With this in mind, I work to develop an inclusive multicultural literacy curriculum. I am a committed advocate of young adult literature and slam poetry in the secondary ELA classroom. A social justice educator and an advocate for ethnic studies, I’ve created a literacy pedagogy that honors and sustains students’ home culture, language, and experiences. By incorporating a multicultural frame, I encourage my students to use their understanding of literacy as a tool to matriculate through colleges and universities. When not teaching, I enjoy spending time with his wife, Lizeth, son, Gabriel, and daughter, Eiva.

Comments 5

  1. Kyle Bragg

    Thanks for the post, Steven. I agree- athletics can be a saving grace for some students. It can keep them out of trouble and provide them a sense of belonging in a safe group. Kuddos to you and your staff for mentoring this kid!

  2. Mike Vargas

    Steven !!! THANK YOU SO MUCH for telling this story… all too often people don’t realize the power of sports on our young people. I still believe the darkest day in Arizona history is when the Maricopa Community Colleges de funded junior college football. HS athletics is part of the American experience and I only wish others saw its value. Thank you for this post

  3. Leah Clark

    Great post, coach! Often our extra-curricular programs become the reason why our students attend school and possibly succeed in the classroom due to their motivations outside the classroom. It’s incredible to see our students realize their challenges and work to overcome them. Even better is the fact that his team saw his potential too. I hope his senior year proves to be the best it can be. It sounds like he is a fighter and will overcome this physical setback. Best of luck!

  4. Jaime Festa-Daigle

    Sports save kids, as do band, student council, after school clubs. In my community, the sports fee is $400. Even though this can be paid in tax credit, the cost has kept many kids out. Up until we had an override pass, it was $800. Playing sports in a rural school costs many times more than a metro school due to travel costs. Our student athletes miss school, our coaches need subs, and the cost for bussing is high. Connecting kids to caring adults and a team is something that should be accessible for all kids.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *