Coaching is trying to show young people how to grow each day so they can learn to give rather than take. It is both a challenge and a gift.
The challenge comes in honing the skills and abilities of each player to build not only a winning team but a team of winning individuals. The gift is getting to be a part of that transformation.
The only job I know that requires more dedication, self-discipline and constant review of the playbook is fatherhood, which offers the same challenge and gift. In both coaching and fatherhood, the plays don’t work unless the individuals are committed to their roles.
When my wife and I decided to start a family, I knew I had work to do. Even after coaching for years and serving as a father figure to many young men, I was nervous at the one-and-one free throw attempt at fatherhood, not to mention the full-court press of parenting.
My concerns were not without cause.
My father walked out of my life when I was 9. That experience punched a huge hole in my world and left me with an emotional void.
Unfortunately, far too many children are growing up in fatherless homes. While the term deadbeat dad comes to mind — and there are those who deserve that label — most fathers want to be a part of their children’s lives but lack the adequate parenting skills, self-esteem, education or economic stability. They are the legacy of five generations of fatherlessness in America, and their children are inheriting a bleak future.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children live without their biological father. Fatherlessness negatively impacts boys and girls alike. Children growing up in a father-absent home are four times more likely to live at or below poverty. They are more likely to drop out of school, engage in criminal activity, abuse drugs and alcohol and become pregnant as a teenager.
What can we do to stop this crisis?
My experience with father absence led me to embrace the work of the S.C. Center for Fathers and Families. I’ve coached young people, most of whom lived in fatherless homes, for 32 years. But since joining the center’s board, I have learned a great deal about the barriers that prevent fathers from being supportive dads and how fatherhood programs can be game changers for men who want to become the dads their children need them to be.
The center’s programs focus on parenting, job readiness, legal education and peer support and are delivered through a statewide network of program centers. They offer the means for fathers to better provide the financial, emotional and spiritual support their families need to thrive.
Last year more than 1,500 fathers participated in the six-month program, Of them, 1,070 men gained and kept a job, 947 received parenting education and. 840 avoided litigation by being able to pay child support.
The numbers may seem small, but the impact is great.
In 2015, participants paid a total of $1.22 million in child support. Spending time in jobs, not jail, saved taxpayers more than $5.22 million in incarceration costs. Most importantly, more than 3,400 children’s lives were changed for the better.
Multiply those results by the 12,600 fathers served since the center was established in 2002, and you see the power of these programs. But there is much more to be done.
Men struggle to ask for help. We have been raised to figure things out. Continuing to spread the word that we all need help being good fathers is the first step in taking on the complicated job of being a Dad.
Father’s Day is a time to recognize the love and support of dads. This year, as you celebrate, I invite you to take a moment to learn more about the importance of fatherhood programs at celebratingfathers.com. Join our team. Champion a brighter future for fathers and families in our state.
Let’s give the players, the Dads, the confidence to make the free throws and set up the press, because this is a game we need to win.
Mr. Martin is the USC men’s basketball coach; contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.