When Erica Peterson and her classmates found out they would receive college credit for playing fantasy football in Dr. Ryan Neises' first-year seminar class, they were pleasantly surprised.
“We were like, ‘are you kidding, are you joking right now because no teacher has ever told me we're going to be doing fantasy football for class,’” Peterson said.
In Neises’ class, students learn the components of what makes a successful team and compete in a semester-long fantasy football league to help understand the nature of teamwork.
“We're using sports teams and fantasy football to talk about deeper things that everyone's going to use whether they're in sports, business, or collaborating in music,” Neises said. “I think it's useful for everybody. Fantasy football is a way to get people into the circus tent a little bit so that we can talk about real stuff.”
Aidan Braccia, a freshman on Belmont’s men’s basketball team, has enjoyed the course since day one.
“I think the biggest thing you can do is put kids and put people in real-life situations, for them to learn and to gain new qualities of teamwork,” Braccia said. “I've had a blast so far.”
Neises seamlessly integrated teamwork with the popularity of fantasy to give his class a different FYS experience.
“The whole concept of the class is going to involve working on a team and that’s what we’re doing the entire semester,” Neises said. “It perfectly lines up with football season, and of course, everyone loves a little competition.”
Students were randomly put into six groups of four and each group had to figure out a team name and select which values it wanted to focus on.
Each group participated in an auction draft of players in the NFL, a class event where members had to collaborate.
Throughout the semester, there are several scenarios and curveballs that they will be presented with that they have to figure out how to handle, Neises said.
“You always hear people say things like, ‘I hate working with teams, because I always carry the load for my group project,’” Neises said. “You have to figure out what's going to help and what's going to make it successful.”
Playing fantasy football made Braccia feel like he’s a part of an NFL franchise.
He enjoys the strategy in selecting players, matchups and handling adversity throughout the football season.
“I feel like the point of the course is really to find out who you are as a team,” Braccia said. “It makes you understand, what are the more successful types of teams because there's all these different types of teams that are able to achieve all different levels of success in sports and in life.”
For classmate Ava Rhoads, playing fantasy football is something new.
“I love watching football, but I'm not super involved in knowing all the players, but my parents have always watched football,” Rhoads said. “I’m not super athletic, but I’ve always been in leadership roles, working with teams.”
Rhoads organizes the discussions and presentations, she said.
Rhoads’ group named its fantasy team the Greenland Seven Rings, a name inspired by how many Super Bowl wins Tom Brady has.
Although she doesn’t entirely know how fantasy football works, Rhoads enjoys the class environment.
“It's been cool to have a safe space,” Rhoads said. “I come in and I always take something away, it's a fun class to practically put things into use.”
Peterson enjoys the healthy competition within fantasy football and realizes there are many attributes necessary for a successful team.
“Every class period, we are working on building up our own personal definitions, because everyone's definition of that is going to be different,” Peterson said.
Neises also knows that every student won’t share the same values.
“I think that the beauty of it is that everyone will have a different answer,” Neises said. “What's really unique about the class and the topic in general is the idea of what a successful team is, is different for everybody, everyone's going to have to think about and write about what success means to them.”
“Eventually, everyone is going to have to lead a team or be on one in some capacity in life. What does that look like and how will you make it work?” Neises said.
PHOTO: This week’s ESPN fantasy football lineup.
Landen Secrest/Belmont Vision
This article was written by Landen Secrest.