Jonathan Hood
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Family day passed a couple weeks ago, so that got me thinking about the importance of family. Part of being a family is getting together and sharing moments with those you love.

I consider people who are not blood to be family. I consider close friends to be family. I consider the young women and men of my youth programs to be family. Over the years while running the Ahead of the Game youth program I really got to see the importance of being part of something and how it impacted the youth. During each session we spend time with the students and share. We are open with them so they can be open with us. We give first, so they give to us. We really promote the safe exchange of love, support, resources, feedback, safety and encouragement.

It is both exciting and heartwarming to hear that the students feel the same way. I got the chance to hear this directly from a student last year when I went to a school to check in on the students to get a few testimonials. While conducting a video testimonial, one of the participants said, “You know what it was like with our little group? It was like our family. We were like one. We were like a team. It was an experience where we could be open and share and not worry about being scrutinized or discriminated against, or put down. It was a very free environment and we felt very safe.”

This student’s response really reminded me of football, the ultimate team sport. During training camp and throughout the season, as teammates we go through so much together. We suffer together, work hard together, lose together, laugh together, cry together, and win together. Guys from all over the US and Canada come together to be part of one team. And the whole process brings us together as one family. These are moments I will never forget.

Not everyone has a close family, and not everyone is part of a team. So I am overjoyed when we are able to create a familial, team atmosphere and hear that is has the same positive impact on young minds.

I’d like to give a shout out to the Ahead of the Game family including all the facilitators, teachers, principals, and youth who have been involved. I think that sometimes we do not really understand the impact we make on one another, young and old alike. And it is amazing to see how a small thing like sharing with someone for one hour a week can make such a difference. I think it’s because this is a family.