In light of the tragedy that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday, Christians across the country are asking, “What can we do to prevent another tragedy like this one?” While we must ultimately trust in God’s sovereignty to work all things together for good, there are already many women working to alleviate the situations and symptoms – everything from fatherless homes to mental illness – that lead to such tragically evil actions perpetrated by our nation’s youth.
One such woman is Sandra Crawford Williamson, who is working with GameChanger to help the 16 million American children currently living in fatherless homes.
4word: What first brought the issue of fatherlessness to your attention?
Sandra: It all started when this group of coaches started talking amongst themselves saying, “Listen. We’re way beyond just teaching our kids how to play the game. We’re coaching these kids on life, like how to grocery shop for their siblings because their moms have to work the night shift every night.”
I got involved in this movement when I volunteered at a Texas High School Coaches Association event in May. Then, we had 300 of the most influential coaches in Texas – whom we call Ambassadors – in attendance. Now, we’re planning a GameChanger event in February 2013, to which we’ve invited all 20,000 members of the Texas High School Coaches Association.
This movement that is all about addressing the root cause of so many issues in our country, especially in our youth: the decline of values in our homes. I believe there is nothing more important at this moment in history than building integrity and character into our youth.
4word: What impact does fatherlessness have on a child? Why?
Sandra: The number of fatherless homes in America has soared from 6% to 25% since 1960. Eighty percent of the 2.2 million juveniles arrested annually in the US come from single-parent homes. Seventy percent of these young offenders are re-arrested within six months of release from prison.
The overwhelming majority of young people say their role models are people they don’t know personally. With less influence and mature, positive relationships coming from the home, today’s teens are being mentored by the media and their peers. Not surprisingly, we have an epidemic of social problems, and the consequences are devastating, both for individual lives and society as a whole.
4word: Why the focus on athletic coaches? What makes them able to help these kids?
Sandra: We believe that athletic coaches are uniquely placed in the lives of fatherless teens with three key things: time, access and authority. Each week, they have hours of time spent face to face with their players. And they obviously already have access to their kids.
Finally, they have authority with their players. Coaches are like the local rock star; their players respect them. This gives coaches a perfect opportunity to talk to and influence their players about something more than just how to play a sport.
In fact, one coach told me that one of his players came to him recently and said, “My mom’s boyfriend is beating her up, and I don’t know what to do. I know I’m the man of the house, but I don’t know how to help.” These coaches have realized that, in many cases, they are the only positive male role models in their players’ lives.
4word: Your first annual Game Changer Coaches Leadership Summit is coming up in February. What’s your vision for the event?
Sandra: We have pulled together some of the biggest names in coaching, entertainment and sports to pour into and encourage coaches whom we believe to be the last hope for saving America’s youth. People like Nick Vujicic, Grant Teaff, Matthew West, and many others are coming together to provide tools, development, and inspiration for our coaches.
We believe that building leaders starts with these coaches, and it’s our hope that they will leave the summit with the inspiration and tools that will make them more effective with their student-athletes. Coaches have the unique opportunity to mold a student-athlete’s character and instill the values and character that will help provide a moral compass for years to come.
I still remember the coaches who encouraged me on and off the field. They empowered me with character traits no one could ever take away: self-esteem, perseverance, and integrity. My hope is to be a part of encouraging these coaches so they can leave a lasting legacy with today’s generation of students.
If you’d like to learn more about GameChanger, you can visit their website at http://www.GameChangerCoaches.com.
Have you experienced the power of a positive role model in your own life? Whether you work in sports, business, the medical field or any industry, we can all benefit from a mentor’s guidance. Share your own experience with us in the comments.