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June 17, 2019

Redefining Dads: Men Leading By Example

Charlie Ward Op-Ed

As a coach AND a dad, I’ve discovered how similar and intertwined these two roles are. Like coaches, dads help to shape and guide their kids into the best possible versions of themselves. We tend to think of “dad” as a term for someone with a biological or adopted child, but the term is bigger than that. It represents many men who invest their time and talents in the young people around them, standing beside them and teaching them to stand tall themselves. Are you a coach, a teacher, or a mentor? You are not just playing a vital role. You too are a dad. I realized that I am a dad for more than just my own children; I’m a father figure to all of the children I meet and teach.

I remember a time during a practice session, a fight broke out between my high school basketball players. I will usually let them fight until they tire because eventually, they do. This time, though, their teammates and a coach stepped in to calm things down. They understood that a fight was not beneficial to anyone on the court. Once they were separated, we took the opportunity as a team to discuss respect and consequences. I shared that I, too, as a player had to learn a similar valuable lesson. When I was with the New York Knicks, a disruptive outburst in the playoffs cost us the series.  I was suspended, along with several key members of my team, for two games and it was all because of my selfishness.

After the incident between my players and our discussion, I still ended up suspending both of them from competitive drills and games, but I made sure they were not excused from conditioning. I believe you still have to do the work and preparation even if you aren’t competing so that when it’s game time, you know better how to be a good, reliable teammate. Given the circumstance, they each received punishment reflective of their behavior. They were learning a lesson, as were their teammates. We were teaching them to learn how disrespect and fighting have no place in any of your relationships.

When I shared my own story of failing my teammates, I was leading by example. Often, a coach will draw up a play for a team, and then will demonstrate what each player should do. Children learn many things in life by example, which is why it is important for men to step up as dads to model respect, empathy, and compassion for everyone. A dad shows his children what it looks like to have integrity in the midst of challenging situations. A dad reminds his children of their worth when they experience failure. A dad helps instill strong values and encourages upstanding character in his children. A dad shows his children that healthy relationships do not include hurtful words, jealousy, control or violent actions.

For Father’s Day this year, I am encouraging all men to “become” a dad. Be a dad by showing the kids in your lives what a healthy relationship looks like – in a marriage, between a parent and child, and amongst friends and family. Kids need role models, protectors, and supporters. Every kid needs a dad and every man can be a dad to more than one child. Take on a father-like role in the life of one more child, showing them what a healthy relationship looks like.

Family First and its fatherhood program, All Pro Dad, are working in conjunction with the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence to promote healthy and non-violent relationships. If you are currently experiencing domestic violence or know someone who is, please call the Florida Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-500-1119. For callers outside of Florida, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

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