Falls Church High School head football coach Said Aziz had a thought.
Aziz looked around at his high school and saw campus classrooms participating in community service projects.
And that got him thinking: Could his football team participate in something community related?
“Our school practices giving back to the community,” Aziz said. “We’d like to have our football program be like a classroom. Why can’t our football program do something?”
Aziz felt that a mentoring program that included members of his football team working with local elementary school students would be a good fit. So, he called Terry Dade, the principal at nearby Graham Road Elementary School to discuss setting something up.
“I jumped at the opportunity,” said Dade of Aziz proposal.
And so, on Tuesday and Wednesday, members of the Jaguar football team visited with sixth graders at Graham Road to mentor the youngsters as they move into the seventh grade.
Aziz’s goal is to help instill values of character and responsibility in the sixth graders, just before those students continue into the challenging years of middle school. Of the 10 or 12 FCHS students in tow, some will be freshman. Aziz hopes to see any relationships established to continue, and envisions that when the current freshmen become seniors, the current sixth graders will be freshmen, and the bond will continue.
The whole point of our football program is to build our young men with character.
“The whole point of our football program is to build our young men with character and prepare them for the real world,” Aziz said. “The winning on the football field takes care of itself.”
On Tuesday, the high schoolers and elementary school students engaged in a meet and greet, get-to-know one another type session. On Wednesday, that relationship continued to be grown.
Aziz hopes that as the elementary students grow up, they can continue to use his football players for support.
“We’re hoping they make relationships,” he said.
Aziz added that his idea for mentoring comes at least partly from his experience as a football coach. There’s more to what a football coach does that just Xs and Os.
“When you’re a high school football coach, you’re dealing with more than football,” he said.
Both Dade and Aziz hope that this week’s mentoring will be the start of a longer relationship between the schools and the students. Perhaps an annual June program, or a more frequent collaboration may be possible.
“I was impressed he took the initiative,” Dade said. “I hope this is a first step in a long relationship.”
And while the younger students will learn things such as responsibility and character, Aziz’s players will also learn the importance of giving back to the community.
“It’s something for our kids and the sixth graders,” the coach said.