Football and Fatherhood
If you know anything about Allendale, you know that most children here are being raised by single moms (often with help from grandparents). Out of 40 high school football players, I’d be surprised if more than six live with their biological fathers.
Many of the boys, though, are in contact with their fathers. Usually, these dads live in Allendale, or in a neighboring county. But some of these guys see their fathers only a few times a years, or less.
After a game, I was talking with one of the players on the team which I help coach. His dad and other family members had driven up from Florida to cheer us to victory. I was telling him how great it was that they could make it up, but I didn’t once think about the other guys around us listening in.
Then, an 18-year old football player said, “I’ve been playing football since middle school, and my Daddy ain’t never seen me play.”
He didn’t say this with (apparent) anger or pain. He was just stating a fact. I looked at him and all I could think to do was mutter, “I’m sorry. That stinks.” I almost never can think of the right thing to say in the moment.
But I did see him a couple of days later, and I told him I’d been thinking about what he said. “How does it make you feel, that he’s never seen you play?” I asked. He answered,
“It’s a little hard. I mean, you got one guy’s dad driving up from Florida, and mine won’t even come from Columbia to see me play. But, you know, I gotta’ go on. It’s just how it is.”
He’s right. It is how it is, unfortunately. There is nothing he can do but move forward. Realizing that, I decided I could give him a little encouragement and some direction.
First, the encouragement:
“I can’t replace your dad, of course. But I’ll tell you this: I’m glad I get to see you play. I’m glad I get to be one of your coaches. Your dad is missing out by not seeing you. And I am proud of you. I’m proud of how hard you work, and I’m proud that you are on the team.”
Then, a challenge:
“Here’s what you need to think about. You’re dad probably didn’t have a dad that cared about him, and his dad before him, and so on. But you know what you can do? You can break the cycle. You can be a dad that sticks around. You need to get married, and stay married. Be the dad that you always wanted. And that’s why we’re here, to help you do that.”
And with nod and a handshake and a “See ya’ tomorrow,” we walked away.
I hope that’s not the end of our conversation. And I do hope that this young man does break the cycle.
- Feeling the Pain of a Fatherless Generation: Angry Boys
- Conversations In the Car and On the Practice Field
- 4 Things That Dads Need to Do to Be Connected to Their Family
**image courtesy of Elvert Barnes via flickr