For the past 20 years, football at recess has been the activity of choice for thousands of kids attending Nancy Young Elementary. Earlier this week, the school honored Student Services Director, Dr. Robert Bell and his brainchild, “Doc Football”. The recess program changed the behavior of the students in a positive way.
“My first year at the school was as a disciplinarian for the school. In 2001, we had 900 behavior incidents,” explained Dr. Bell. ” I looked at the data and it was all at lunch and recess. So I talked to the Principal and Assistant Principal and I said I had to be out there, I can’t be dealing with discipline all afternoon. What I’m going to do is start this game of football, I’ll watch it and oversee it. We went from 900 behavior incidents, to 60 in one year.”
Doc Football not only kept kids out of trouble at recess, it promoted discipline, teamwork, perseverance and of course, physical activity.
Doc Football Turns 20
To commemorate 20 years of the program, Metea Valley Principal Darrell Echolls, District 204 board members and several Mustang football players who attended Young Elementary as kids, returned for a mid-day game of staff vs. students football. The former students were excited to take part, as Doc Football helped them develop a love for the game.
“When I was younger, Doc Football was all I wanted to do,” said Metea Valley’s Oscar Rivera Jr. “When I was at lunch it was like, ‘Hey, we want Doc Football, we want Doc Football!’ Always looking forward to it. So to come back here is just a great honor for me.”
“Dr. Bell is a big inspiration to why I play football today. Third, fourth and fifth grade I played Doc Football here,” recalls Mustang junior, Omotayo Taiwo. “I was an elementary school kid when the Metea Valley Mustangs came to play football. We looked at them as idols. To be back here today as members of the football team, to have fun with the elementary school kids. It’s a lot.”
Current and Former Students Sharing the Field
The Young Elementary students competing in the game were selected due to positive behavior at school. The kids were indeed thrilled to compete against their teachers and to share the field with the Mustang players.
“I think it was very thoughtful that they wanted to come out and have fun with all these crazy, little 5th graders,” said Young student Emma Anargyros. “I was excited to catch a touchdown, but I was also excited to see all the high school players play against us.”
As his former students have moved on to Granger Middle School and eventually Waubonsie Valley or Metea Valley High School, Dr. Bell is truly touched to see so many all grown up and returning and help create an unforgettable day.
“I’m in shock that these men and women that came back to spend some time at their old elementary school and to see good old Dr. Bell. It means the world to me. It’s the highlight of my teaching career.”
For Naperville News 17, I’m Justin Cornwell.