SOMERS, N.Y. – As many parents know, the benefits of sports extend far beyond the playing field. They can teach leadership skills, build camaraderie, improve work ethics, and instill young adults with a sense of responsibility and selflessness.

For Dominic Vinci, being on the Somers football team has also developed a sense of belonging.

Vinci is a reserve linebacker and running back who plays an important role on special teams. Though Somers football often makes headlines for their stellar play, Vinci has gone viral for other reasons.

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In 2016, a Facebook post written about him by his mother, Catherine Vinci, was featured on NBC’s “Today.” Posted on the show’s website, Catherine’s write-up has been viewed more than 83,000 times.

Written when Vinci was in eighth grade, Catherine’s post details her son’s social struggles, which often led to him being the target of bullying. He begged to stay home from school, she wrote, because of classmates who enjoyed teasing her son “to the point of a meltdown.”

But Vinci wasn’t just harassed, his mother said. He was excluded.

“I’m talking birthday parties, play dates, teammates hanging out after a game, pre-parties before all school socials, pretty much everything,” Catherine wrote.

Now a high school senior, Vinci has made tremendous social strides since that time. Thanks in part to the Somers football community, which has embraced her son with open arms, Vinci no longer feels like an outcast. In fact, earlier this year before a home game, he was tasked with leading the Tuskers onto the field.

“To see him being embraced by his peers and cheered means everything,” Catherine said.

No matter what happens the rest of the season, Vinci has already achieved glory on the football field. And his struggles and willingness to talk about them are an inspiration.

Vinci spoke to us about the role sports have played in helping transform him from a socially anxious youngster to a mature, college-bound athlete.

How has playing team sports, football specifically, helped you socially?

I’ve been playing football with the same group of kids since second-grade flag football. Some new kids joined, some kids stopped playing, but the majority of us have been friends and teammates for years. We’ve gotten to know each other really well. I trust them and hope to remain friends long after I graduate.

What does being part of a community like Somers football mean to you?

It really means the world to me. I don’t take it for granted, either. You always hear stories of people’s high school football days. I’m trying to really soak it up and enjoy every minute. Somers loves football and our team receives so much support.

Our coaches, most especially Coach D, are legendary. I will always remember and be grateful for what they have taught me, and how they have always supported me.

What advice would you offer to younger students who might be feeling like you once did?

Pick a sport you love, join a team or league, stick with it and give it your all. There’s so much more to team sports than how good of a player you are. You make friends and learn about dedication, commitment and discipline. Whether you are the best player or the worst, you still have something to gain by being a part of a team.