3 lessons of Nerdwestern football

By Anthony Settipani

1956_Northwestern_Wildcats_football_coaching_staff_(Parseghian,_Schembechler,_Agase)

It’s no secret that students here at Northwestern aren’t the biggest football fans. Of course, it’s also pretty hard to blame them for their lack of interest. For a student body on the fast track to grades, money and world domination, to be paired with a team that until only recently held the record for longest losing streak in college football history is a recipe for a trying relationship. There are a few things, however, that even Nerdwestern’s most dedicated could stand to learn from the game of football.

1. Stand by your team

No one likes a sellout, but it seems more and more these days that good old-fashioned concepts like loyalty and dependability get switched out for more modern ideals like success and advancement. How often do you hear the students around you talk about that nice high-paying job they want to get after they graduate? How many people do you see guarding their answers like dragon’s gold? What would you to work for Klondike Bar?

In short, if the average NU student is given the choice between sticking with something they love, and jumping ship for something they think will get them a heavier paycheck, many will opt for the latter. Is this the right way? Take a look at football. The players may change from year to year, but the team is still there, and a true fan is a fan for life. It’s true that it can be difficult to stick to your guns when your team gives up game after game, or when icy rain is sheeting down all around. But students would do well to remember that no losing streak lasts forever, and pride and success often come just as much from within as from a winning season. 

2. Go to practice

In case you weren’t aware, a lot of things in life are similar to icebergs, and football is one of them. In every game that you watch (or don’t, as the case may be), it’s not the work the players put in on game day that carries the win. It’s the hours and hours they put in on the practice field, in the gym, and away from the cameras. To put it in more classroom-friendly terms, the game is the final exam, and practice is the homework. And players do their homework. 

Five days a week, Northwestern’s football team spends between four and five hours on the clock lifting weights, running plays and studying formations.  And that all happens before Game Day even dawns over Ryan Field.

3. Pace yourself

They don’t call us “The Cardiac ‘Cats” for nothing. That luckless moniker came about as the product of a longstanding Northwestern tradition of choking at the last minute, and provides ample encouragement to keep it from ever describing anything other than football. Fear can be a good motivator, and no one wants to be known as the pre-law who folds like a lawn chair as soon the pressure turns up.

Besides that, though, there are valuable lessons to be learned from the fact that a strong start doesn’t necessarily equal a strong finish. Just like standing by your team through thick and thin, when your head is truly in the game you should know that no loss is more than an opportunity to improve. Very often, we come from backgrounds where failure is simply not an option, and we tend to reproduce that culture when we get to Northwestern. Any player knows that in football, failure is not only an option, it’s an inevitability. And when that loss comes, they also know it’s all about how fast you get up, figure it out and Don’t. Do it. Again.

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