Football and Learning - Brain Based

Guys, sports, and parenting series #1

Guys have tremendous power to be an influence for good in their kids’ lives.  We face some challenges however.  Sometimes we don’t get involved.  Other times we don’t know what we should do.  There are times when we don’t want to take heat from mom and avoid getting involved.  What we may not realize is that we are amazingly prepared to help raise kids, and kids love it when we do.

To help us understand the skills we have, we are going to talk sports.  Most of us, even if we are not overly athletic (like me) have a pretty good knowledge of sports, how games should be played, and what the players need to do.  Let’s talk football and kids to help us become better parents.

When I was in seventh grade, more pads and uniform than player, Coach Baker got in my face and growled, “Take care of the ball Doughty.”  I had fumbled.  This was not my last time to fumble, but Coach Baker, from the moment I stepped onto that playing field, could not have been clearer, no matter who you are, no matter what position you play, TAKE CARE OF THE BALL!

I had gotten to the point of being a running back by doing exactly that.  If you wanted to be a running back, the key was successfully taking the handoff and hanging onto the ball.  I still remember after I took that last handoff in tryouts and Coach Baker said, “You’re a running back, head for the locker room Doughty.”  I celebrated!  I had learned the basics of taking care of the ball.

That training served me extremely well when I hit the front porch on our Northeast Portland home, the door burst open, and the kid raising quarterback (my wife), handed off the baby and kept going.  I took that handoff and knew instinctively I had to take care of the ball.  Inside were two toddlers, the third was in my arms, and mom needed a break.  So I went to work on offense and got the team organized and settled down, checked diapers, cleaned up a bit, and played games with them.  I would no more complain to my wife about getting that handoff than I would complain to Coach Baker about getting the football, this was my job, and I wanted to do it well.

One of the fundamental principles of a good football team is that everyone knows that their number one priority is taking care of the ball and the person with the ball.  If you’re an offensive guard, you don’t regularly get the ball, but you know if the ball comes loose, you take care of it. If the quarterback has the ball, you take care of him.  According to Coach Baker you need to be passionate about taking care of the ball.

Taking care of kids has the same priority.  The first thing we need to decide is that we really want to take care of our kids.  There are too many of us that have missed a dad being involved in our lives.  Getting involved begins with a decision to commit to taking care of your kids and your kid’s mom.  From a brain development standpoint, this commitment provides increased safety and security for both our kids and our kids’ mom, and that reduces stress.  That safety and security makes for healthier brain development in our kids (Medina, 2009).

I know this is a commitment you can make.  I see you and I doing it all the time in football when we commit to taking care of the ball.  We learn how to keep track of it, protect it, recover it, catch it, run with it, and take care of whomever has it.  Think about how well you do that.  It’s the same with our kids.  There is more to learn with kids than a football, but it simply begins with this commitment: I am going to learn how to take care of the kids and the kid’s mom.

Being there and being committed to help out with the kids gives our kids a great advantage in a world where too many dads are not involved and choose other priorities.  We understand how important it is to the success of a football team to take care of the ball.  In the same way, being a good dad begins with the simple decision to take care of our kids and our kid’s mom.

Medina, J. (2010). Brain rules for baby: how to raise a smart and happy child from zero to five. Seattle, WA: Pear Press.


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