We don’t often (ever?) associate the NFL with parenting. As a pediatrician, I get it. These gifted athletes come to the NFL to play well, help get their team to the Super Bowl, draw large crowds and well, make money for the organization. That’s all good, but I know that there’s more to these men than meets the eye, and my job as their advocate, is to help each one who is willing, to build upon and show off his skills as a father.
Don’t underestimate the importance of this task because we, who work with the NFL, have an important charge. Millions are watching the players and their families and I want these folks to see what’s right with their families, not the mistakes that they are making. And I do believe that we’re off to a great start.
I sat down with LaVar Arrington, David Tyree, Benjamin Watson, London Fletcher and Mike Adams to chat about fatherhood. What I experienced thrilled me and now I understand why – their fathering skills all make sense.
These men are trained to be good Dads: they are highly disciplined, they listen to what someone wiser says, they know how to have the back of someone they care about, they don’t always have to have their way and they are strong and know how to persevere. Football has taught them these things, but these are all skills that every good father needs and as far as I’m concerned, if a player has these things, he’s most of the way towards being a great Dad.
I was also privileged to hear about their wives and kids. These people are no slouches either. Many women home-school their kids and hold the home together while their husbands are off working. I didn’t hear the men talk about their wives complaining much. When they spoke about their families, their faces lit up. Clearly, something good is going on at home.
So, why come into the NFL and begin an initiative to undergird these men as fathers and encourage their wives? That’s easy. Because these athletes are great men and our country needs to know them as great men, not just good athletes. They have so much to teach us about family: how to be faithful to their wives and kids, how to take the high road when temptations of power, money and notoriety threaten to swallow them up, and how to keep their wits about them because they know that there is life after the NFL.
The answer to many of our country’s ills is stronger dads, better mothers and tighter families. You know it and I do as well. Could these men and women help our country move in the right direction? Without a doubt. Can we as their advocates encourage them to be as well-versed in their homes as they are on the field? Yes.
I am thrilled to be involved with the Fatherhood Initiative because I know that our investment in the lives of these men and their wives will pay off in a big way. Not only will they play better if they feel better as fathers, but they will lead their teammates and the younger rookies coming up the ranks.
We owe these men and their wives support, encouragement and counsel with regard to their kids and families because they work extremely hard at their jobs. Sure, they get paid well, but money is money. The best that we can do is help them have more happiness – and I intend to do just that.