It has been a long time in coming but football is finally coming back to Monroe.
Thanks in part to overdue, increased District funding for athletics, this Fall the school will have a Modified Football team — the first time the Red Jackets will be on the gridiron since 1986.
To be coached by Assistant Principal Jason Muhammad, the team will follow the rules established by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association and be a part of the City League and Section V. Muhammad’s goal is to attract students to Monroe to play football, and from there grow a full program—Modified, J.V., and Varsity—in the years to come.
Having coached for over twenty years, Muhammad has long been a city football fixture. In 2006, while at John Marshall High School, his was the last RCSD team to win a Section V Championship, making it to the NYS Semi-Finals, losing to the eventual NYS Champion by just 2 points.
But if you talk to Muhammad for about two minutes, you will see that X’s and O’s and wins and losses are only a small part of the picture. Fundamentally, he passionately believes in the powerful, transformative impact football can and does have on the lives of youth.
Muhammad is especially concerned with our most “at risk” population which he defines as “black and brown boys between the ages of 13 – 18 who reside in urban areas, face significant economic challenges, are the victims and perpetrators of violent crimes, have extremely low graduation rates, and excessively high dropout rates.” These are the young people most in need of mentoring, guidance and positive outlets.
Muhammad convincingly argues that sports in general, and in his case football, are one of the most effective vehicles for reaching this population:
Football attracts the very ones who have been identified by every statistical analysis available as needing the most support. And it provides that support while simultaneously permitting the controlled release of the natural aggressive tendencies found in most adolescent males as they grow and mature into young men.
And, for years, he did just that at Marshall.
There, he helped established a year-round program that monitored each student-athlete in the areas of academics, citizenship, and training. In that 2006 championship season, the team was recognized by the RCSD Board of Education for its academic achievement as every player was academically eligible for the entire season – from August through the middle of November.
Perhaps most importantly, during the summer months when the allure of the streets is the strongest, his staff maintained ties with each player, communicating with their families and offering weekly activities that kept the players engaged. Activities usually took place three days a week in the evenings and most Saturday afternoons so that summer school or summer jobs were not affected. By doing this, Muhammad knew where is players were, which far more often than not, was the right place at the right time.
Muhammad’s own words best convey his passion:
Simply stated, football helps. Football changes lives. It saves lives. A few years ago, there was a young man who played for East HS who was tragically killed while he and some of his friends were are a party. He was a football player. I remember going to the funeral services and reflecting on how if his team had been playing in the Sectionals that weekend, he probably would not have been at that place at that time. I remember thinking about how what football coaches in the RCSD do is SO MUCH MORE than just coach and draw X’s and O’s, and about how football saves lives.
Coaches are fathers and brothers. We yell and scream and praise and hug. We laugh, we cry. We fight, we love. I get texts and calls, and Facebook messages from my Football Sons every year on Fathers’ Day, and whenever I see them, wherever I am, we embrace like they are my own biological children. Because for some of these young men, the coach that they see every day is the only positive male figure they have in their lives.
Finally, Muhammad says to parents of 7th and 8th graders who are considering sending their children to Monroe to participate in football, “I promise to teach and train them as if they were my own.” Hard to beat that.
For other stories on the positive impact of sports participation on students, see East’s Coach Brigandi proved the value of sports extends beyond the playing fields and East baseball takes the show on the road. Destination Pittsburgh
For other good happenings at Monroe see: Celebrating diversity at James Monroe High SchoolMonroe forging ambitious literacy partnership with SUNY GeneseoOne Parent Resource Center at a time at MonroeIn its first appearance, Monroe video club wins big at Digital Media Festival, “The Digies.”