Radio Host, Kevin Price and Chris Kidd, Financial Coach and Contributor on the Price of Business on Business Talk 1110 AM KTEK (on Bloomberg’s home in Houston) recently interviewed former NFL player and Virginia Tech standout, Keion Carpenter. Keion is the founder of the charity foundation The Carpenter House, and runs the Shutdown Academy, an organization that empowers youth to reach their potential in sports, in the classroom, and in life. He also has a new book out about his life titled, Covered: The Fatherless Athlete.
Chris Kidd and Keion Carpenter share a passion for helping youth and fighting the fatherlessness epidemic that so many face growing up. Carpenter said, “Growing up man, without that father figure, my mom she did everything she possibly could to take care of me. But there was just a void that she just couldn’t fill, and she had no idea because I hid that from her for so long, because I didn’t want to disappoint her. I didn’t want her to think that she wasn’t enough or that she wasn’t doing enough.” He recalled that many of his coaches were like father figures growing up, but he couldn’t go home with them and they weren’t going home with him, and when the seasons ended there was a disconnect. Keion says, “A lot of issues that are plaguing a lot of communities that I serve, a lot of it starts at home. The two parents are not involved or in the situation, I think that affects a lot of these kids in their growth and the decisions that they choose to make or not make in this journey called life.”
Chris Kidd talked about how a lot of star athletes get treated like royalty and like rules don’t apply today, and asked “What are some things some parents can help prevent that?” Carpenter said, “First of all they gotta understand, we as children, just because we’re gifted athletically, we still struggle with just regular daily life issues. And if those issues are overlooked just because I’m a star athlete, or they’re pushed to the side because I’m a star athlete, at a certain point in our life it is going to catch up with us. And I just would encourage the parent, talk to your child. Don’t be your child’s fan, be his parent! And understand that he or she will have a lot of fans out here that will praise him when he’s doing great in sports or whatever have you. Be his friend. You have no idea what a child is actually struggling with unless you kinda ask those questions that may kinda take the conversation there.”
Kevin asked, “How do you practicably help men bring a better game of fatherhood if you will to the picture?” Keion offered, “Well basically we just encourage fathers just to show up, and be consistent. No one knows how to be a perfect father, I know I’m not. But the one thing my kids understand is that I’m there, and that I love them unconditionally, and I’m going to always be there to support them no matter what.” Carpenter’s organization tries to do a lot of events where they are getting dads involved with their kids, and be involved in their lives. He says, “Get in your child’s life; its never too late. If you haven’t been in, and there’s still a chance, put your pride to the side, because that child is still waiting on you, whether he’s 5 years old or whether he’s 37 years old.”
Continuing into the second segment of the interview Chris Kidd asked what things coaches can do to for kids who are playing for them. Keion Carpenter suggested that coaches often push winning so much now days and get so wrapped up in the game or business of youth sports that they forget they are dealing with children. Carpenter said, “I think that coaches need to just get back to the old school principles and use football as a tool to teach life skills. Yes, winning, you know, it is some degree important but it’s not the most important thing, and the messages of life shouldn’t get caught up and lost in a sport that’s just supposed to be fun for children.” Kevin Price chimed in, “It’s amazing the kind of things, we see people injuring one another and attacking one another at these sporting events. What kind of profound impact is that having on them?” Keion said, “It’s so embarrassing. I truly believe and I think that youth sports should be governor like high school and college, where you have to have a resume, you have to be qualified to be able to coach… You can’t just go into a school and say I want to go teach math because I went to elementary and high school, and I got a degree, and I just want to show up and teach. Naw, you gotta go through a process. Well, in youth sports you can just show up with a whistle and get a shirt and coach just because you may have played twenty or thirty years ago.” He continues, “If our children are our most precious gifts, then why aren’t they protected in the sports arena as well, just like they’re protected in the academic arena?”
Kevin Price brought up recent the Little League World Series incident and asked Carpenter’s thoughts on that. Keion said, “I think that’s horrible. I don’t believe that kids should be involved in grown-up business. Those kids just want to play baseball. That’s all they want to do. They’re not worrying about the rules, the regulations, they’re not signing any paperwork that they’re being told to do by parents, coaches, or whomever’s in charge. So for me, to punish some children who had nothing to do with some grownup decisions, I totally disagree with that.”
Chris Kidd referred to an acquaintance in Covered, Carpenter’s book, who was a drug dealer, and asked about how kids can be drawn into that lifestyle. Keion said, “Kids want to be who they see. So when I was growing up that was who I saw. I saw the neighborhood drug dealers, I saw, you know, the guys with money and jewelry and cars and things of that nature. So we want to be who we see and we kinda gravitate to those guys because obviously we have access to them. They’re in our neighborhood, they’re on our corners, we see them everyday. We start to idolize those guys, because we don’t have that male figure, that male father in the home for us to look up to and know what to be and know how to be.” Carpenter continued, “I found myself in some bad situations all because there was a guy that I looked up to, who pretty much opened his arms to me and showed me some love, some unconditional love, and that was something that I liked, and something that I had yearned for. I’m thankful that Slim cared enough about me to not pull me into his lifestyle, but helped me understand that the gifts that God had given me athletically, that I could use that so much greater to do better than he was doing… Even in a bad situation some good turned out of that.”