Last year, the Eastern Football Program didn’t exist. This year, its fans are celebrating the conclusion of its first season – a winning season – and enjoying benefits that extend far beyond the playing field.
Eastern began their football program with the help of a donation from Southern Ohio Medical Center. SOMC provided 40 helmets for the school, which helped jump-start the program and offered significant financial savings for the district. SOMC also donated helmets to established programs at East, Notre Dame, Minford and Northwest.
SOMC’s donation to the emerging Eastern program, however, has done more than give students an opportunity to enjoy America’s most popular sport. Teachers say it has also helped them in the classroom and given them increased self-confidence.
“Since we began our program, many of our more problematic students have exhibited much better behavior. We’re also seeing kids who didn’t put forth much effort in the classroom trying a lot harder,” Scott Tomlinson, head coach of Eastern’s Junior High team, said.
It didn’t take long before those stories made their way to Eastern Superintendent Neil Leist.
“After about 8 weeks of school, the building principles began telling me that their discipline problems were down to about a third of what they had been,” Leist said.
As one might expect, the program has also led some students to develop an interest in healthy living.
“One student recently told his science teacher how excited he was that he had lost 20 pounds since he started playing football,” Tomlinson said. “He said he is going to continue working out and running in the offseason to make sure he’s in good shape for next year.”
Eastern’s Junior High team finished its first season 6-2 and included 32 members. Eastern’s Pee Wee program had 36 boys from the fifth and sixth grades. Those boys were split into two teams, both of which also finished with winning records.
Leist admits he was caught off guard by the early success.
“I went around telling the parents at that time, ‘We will not win a game this year, Pee Wee or Junior High, because these kids have never played. Don’t expect to start winning until three years down the road,’” Leist said. “Then, the next thing we know we’re 4-0 at the Junior High level.”
With the first season under their belts, both the students and the school are setting their sights on the next one.
“We’ve purchased weight room equipment so that our eighth and ninth graders can start lifting weights and working out,” Tomlinson said. “We’re going to continue to encourage them as they strive to become as healthy as they can.”
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