Why dads matter

By: Bo Mattingly
Published: Friday, June 16, 2017
Fans walk to their seats prior to a game between Arkansas and Oral Roberts on Friday, June 2, 2017, during the opening round of the NCAA Baseball Regional at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Fans walk to their seats prior to a game between Arkansas and Oral Roberts on Friday, June 2, 2017, during the opening round of the NCAA Baseball Regional at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.

Do fathers get the recognition they deserve? Maybe not, but we can’t make the mistake of recognition equaling importance, because dads matter.

I’ll never forget the legendary Bobby Bowden telling me that by his estimation nearly 80 percent of his football players grew up without a dad in their home. I’ve heard from other coaches over the years who say they’ve dealt with a lot more moms than dads.

I am fortunate to have a great dad. He worked two jobs and wasn’t home much, but he was — and is — an incredible example of what it looks like to be guided by integrity and purpose.

My wife married me hoping she would get half the man my dad is. I’ve got a long way to go.

I’ve got some great memories of doing things with Dad, but some of them didn’t necessarily seem like great memories at the time. There was the day he took me trout fishing and the guy across from us caught his limit. We didn’t catch anything.

Another time he took me deep-sea fishing and all I got was sick. Looking back those memories get better and better with each passing year. My dad was trying to spend time with me.

My dad drove a charter bus. Any chance he got, he would take me along for the trip. He took me to my first minor league baseball game, then a big league game that I would likely have never attended if he weren’t a bus driver.

Of course my dad taught me a lot of things along the way, and even to this day I’m grateful for his advice. I just wish I’d followed more of it in my younger days.

Now, as a dad myself, I’m hopeful my kids will remember the things we do together and learn the important things my wife and I try to teach them. There is no substitute for a dad.

As we role through another Father’s Day, I’m reminded just how much dads matter. We really do. It may not always feel like we do, but the facts are undeniable.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2015, 23.6 percent of U.S. children (17.4 million) lived in father-absent homes in 2014. The U.S. Department of Heath/Census tells us that 63 percent of youth suicides are from fatherless homes — five times the average.

Further evidence of just how much dads matter was gathered by The Fatherless Generation Blog:

-90 percent of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes - 32 times the average.

-85 percent of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes - 20 times the average. (Center for Disease Control)

-80 percent of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes, 14 times the average. (Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26)

-71 percent of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes - 9 times the average. (National Principals Association Report)

-70 percent of youths in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes - 9 times the average. (U.S. Dept. of Justice, Sept. 1988)

A 2002 Department of Justice survey of 7,000 inmates revealed that 39 percent of jail inmates lived in mother-only households.

A simple Google search can deliver even more facts that show just how impactful having a dad can be. The message is clear: Be present.

I might not always be the best dad, but if I can keep my kids from being fatherless, the research says they’re better off.

Being a dad is challenging, but I’ve never met a dad who wanted to be lousy at it. So with that in mind, I asked some SEC coaches about their dads and what they’ve learned about being a dad.

Nick Saban: “Nobody has had a greater impact on me than my dad… Whatever it was there was always a lesson I was taught that has helped me in my life and I’ve tried to do that with my kids.”

Bret Bielema, who is looking forward to becoming a father this summer, says he learned a lot of lessons from his dad growing up on a farm, but none more important than the value of an honest days work: “Do it right the first time so you don’t have to do it again is something I’ll always remember,” Bielema said

Avery Johnson has played and coached at the highest level. His standards are high, and he had some great insight on dealing with our kids: “I have to look at myself when it comes to expectations for my children,” he said. “Is it more to benefit me and my ego, or is it to help them? Looking at it that way has helped me become more patient with my children.”

Perhaps South Carolina basketball coach Frank Martin—fresh off the school’s first visit to the Final Four—summed up the responsibility of being a dad best: “It’s not perfect and it’s never close to being perfect, but it’s the most incredible responsibility that any of us can ever be given. “

Here’s to you, Dad. You matter.

This story originally appeared in Hawgs Illustrated

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