An October weekend in 2010 brought three heart stopping games for college and professional football players, teams, and fans. During a Saturday Army / Rutgers game, Rutgers player Eric LeGrand was paralyzed below the neck after a hard hit in which he ducked his head. On Sunday in the NFL, the Falcons played the Eagles, and the Steelers took on the Browns. Four players were seriously injured due to “head first tackles” that are clear violations of the rules. Now I’m aware that there is some controversy as to how “violent” or “clean” these hits were, but that’s not what this blog is about. This blog is about parenting and we’ll get to that in a moment. I have been a quiet observer of the NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, for the past five years, and I like his leadership. In 2007, after a year of consequential scandals involving NFL players, he instituted the NFL Personal Conduct Policy. Players, who crossed the line with weapons, drugs, drunk driving, or using banned substances, were suspended without pay and/or fined up to $100,000. Players who were held in “higher public regard” than other players on the field were given more severe penalties. Why? Because they were role models who were powerful enough to positively or negatively influence millions of viewers including our impressionable children.
Two days after the injurious October weekend, Mr. Goodell and his Commission decided that they had to keep their players as safe as possible. They also had to help them stay accountable. If players could not regulate themselves in their pursuit to win, they would have new incentive.
Any player who initiated a “dangerous and flagrant” hit that violated rules, particularly those including helmets and a “defenseless player” (a receiver in the act of making a catch) would be suspended and possibly fined. This new rule would punish careless or downright defiant players who took rules for granted.
What is most significant is that Roger Goodell and his NFL Commission have had the backbone to enforce their rules. Players know this and take their consequences more seriously.
Fast forward to the upcoming 2012 season. Mr. Goodell and the NFL aren’t just taking care of their own players, and they’re not just being punitive. Proactive and practicing what they preach, the NFL is donating one million dollars a year to Heads Up Football a health and safety resource for parents, coaches and players in youth leagues.
Furthermore, Mr. Goodell, in response to the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal for which he imposed harsh penalties to players and coaches, released a 2012 preseason letter stating that “there was no place for bounties in football.” He re-emphasized NFL rules and his commitment to enforcing them. I particularly appreciated this statement: “Our players do not make excuses on the field; we will not make them off the field.”
So what does all this have to do with parenting? Roger Goodell is like a parent to the NFL players and even coaches. If he can straighten his backbone to set standards and enforce them, for player welfare, and for the NFL family reputation, why don’t we take his example and do the same for our kids and our families?
Your kids, like some football players or coaches, will test your rules by breaking them, either unknowingly or intentionally. Pause for a moment and evaluate how you have handled this type of situation thus far. Do you need to create and enforce a personal conduct policy for your children in sports and in the game of life? How would this help to keep your kids and other kids safer and out of trouble? In other words, what's in it for all of you?
Once you create rules, how effectively do you enforce them? Are your approaches punitive, proactive or both? How well do you model the behaviors you wish that your children would demonstrate?
If there is one thing we know from decades of research, it is that children like to know what they can and can’t do. It takes some of the guesswork out of life. In other words, they want limits. Who better than a parent to set them?
You are the Commissioner of what happens in your family.
Let us know your thoughts and ways you’ve helped your kids to regulate their personal conduct.