Life lessons being taught through 2017 Arvin Classic

It’s a strange time for 2017 high school graduates around the Mahoning Valley, and things are only going to get weirder from here for a lot of them.

Those first few weeks after graduation are a blur. You’re saying goodbye to friends you’ve known since grade school, going to graduation parties three to four times a week and realizing that the biggest part of your life — to date — is over.

Relax kids, life will go on. You’ll meet other friends, girlfriends and boyfriends. It may not seem like it now, but you’ll find a way to adapt to your surroundings.

One group of recent graduates is already finding a way to do that, and the experience is going to benefit them more than they know.

Around 60 football players from three different counties are in the midst of practicing for the annual Jack Arvin All-Star Classic football game, which takes place Thursday at Hubbard Memorial Stadium. The game is usually the most spirited of any high school all-star game, but that’s not what most of these players should take from the experience.

For one of the first times in their lives, these players are being asked to befriend people they have probably never met. Furthermore, they’re being asked to work with them to succeed at a common goal. That’s one of many lessons they can take into the next phase of their lives.

Another one is humility. Most of the players were the best on their respective teams, but now they’re being asked to take a lesser role. Instead of running the ball 20 or 25 times, maybe they’ll get five or six touches. Instead of catching five or six passes, they’ll have to be happy with two or three — maybe none. Accepting your role and making the best of it is part of football — and part of life.

You can’t always be the superstar or the center of attention, and that’s not a bad thing. The importance of being “cool” or being a sports “star” is overblown in the grand scheme of things. Most coaches have probably told you that it takes everyone on the team playing their role to succeed, but since you’ve been the standout player, this lesser role is new to you. Don’t throw a fit. Accept it. Be great at it. Learn what it’s like to help the team in a different, minor way — something your teammates have been doing for years. Winning, or better said, competing, will still be just as enjoyable.

There’s probably a lot of “strange” people on this new team, too. Kids from rural backgrounds are playing next to those from urban environments. This is basically College Life 101, and it’s also Life 101. You’re going to sit next to “different” people in class or at work. They might dress in a way that’s strange to you, talk in a way that bothers you or enjoy hobbies that bore you. Just because these things are different than what you’re used to doesn’t make them wrong or weird. You can’t talk behind everyone’s back or try to fight everyone who annoys you. That can be commonplace in high school, but it’s time to grow up in ways you might’ve thought you wouldn’t have to.

The more you start to open your mind to people who seem unusual to you, the more you’ll start to realize that maybe they’re not so different after all. Often times, while their interests may be vastly different than yours, their values — family, friends, loyalty, integrity — are similar.

On the other hand, you’ll also come across people whose morals are quite different. That’s where you may have to draw the line. Having differing opinions and hobbies is one thing, but if a person is doing things that are dangerous or just plain stupid, trust your gut and distance yourself because your first instinct is usually the correct one.

I’m not exactly Dr. Phil, but a few pointers never hurt. There’s not always going to be a coach, a parent or an overly benevolent writer there to tell you what to do, so trust the principles and ideals you’ve gained over the years from the people you trust.

Oh, and have some fun, too. Just not too much.