Youth sports is about growing up. From a coach's perspective, it is about leading, guiding and teaching young athletes about life as much as about the specific sport in which they are attempting to hone their skills. Because this is the case, a great deal of trust and, thus, a great deal of responsibility rests in the hands of any coach.
Last night, former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, the most disturbing, disgusting and downright evil example of the abuse of this power and responsibility of all time, was convicted on forty-five counts relating to his serial sexual exploitation and abuse of children under the guise of charitable acts. In ninety days, he is due to be sentenced. I read my post from last November 9th on the matter and I feel the same way about everyone involved today.
And I can't help but wonder, as the world breathes a sigh of relief over this monster being put in jail where he belongs (though I can certain name a few other more appropriate places he could go), is it really over? The justice system will dole out its punishment. Sandusky will be effectively prevented from doing what he did to another child ever again. The lives of the others who passively participated and assisted in the cover-up will never be the same, nor should they be. There will be more trials for the other parties involved. There will certainly be sweeping changes in how school administrators handle allegations of sexual misconduct amongst their staff. But again, the fact that life is not about sports but that sports teaches us about life rings true. Will we be happy to put this in the past or will we remember it and learn from it?
I encourage all of you parents out there to make the decision to learn. In fact, don't just learn. Teach. Talk to your children and explain to them (not necessarily in excruciating detail) what happened to Sandusky's victims. Tell them flat out that such behavior is wrong and disgusting. Let them know that anyone who would do such a thing to them or anyone else is not a good guy. Even though he may be someone who everyone says is a good guy, he is not. He is a bad guy. Teach your children not to live in fear, but to stand up for themselves and value themselves over the "good guy," who does bad things.
And most of all, learn to listen. Work hard day to day to provide your children with a safe and trusting ear. Let them know that no matter how good this guy is supposed to be, you will believe what they tell you about him. Be sure that they know your loyalty lies not with a program or a fan base or an institution, but with them. When someone tries to explain away the things that your child tells you or the things you really believe, do not give up.
And please strive to do all this, to defend your children and to do so vehemently so that it might prevent some "good guy" from being seen as the good guy he isn't for too long and getting away with too much. Perhaps together, as parents, we can prevent anything like this from happening ever again.
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