By H. R. Harris,
Special to the AFRO
Rob Harris is the head coach of Washington, D.C.’s famed Lions Football Team at Archbishop Carroll High School. Harris thought he was just attending an awards dinner at the St. James Sports Complex in Springfield, Va., in early June. After all, the team won the 2022 D.C. Athletic Association State Football Championship and team championship rings were on the menu.
Coaches and players naturally bond around the talk of their sport. However, the championship celebration quickly transitioned from talking about winning scores and touchdowns to sharing heartfelt life lessons nurturing the deeper bonds between coaches and their players. Athletes share a common language and connection that many have said emulates family bonds.
“I had a lot of father figures,” shared Harris with his players and the audience gathered for the awards dinner. Harris graduated from Archbishop Carroll High School in the 1990s and returned to support the school’s players as he had been supported during his high school days.
“It is essential to have an example of what being a man is. It is important for both male and female children,” Harris added.
Research published in the National Library of Medicine discusses the critical role and influence a coach can have on their players. When a team is committed to their school coach, the relationship positively and significantly affects student behavior, according to Devar Rezania and Robert Gurnery, study authors.
Harris and several male alumni, former players and coaches rose to talk about fatherhood, mentoring and the touchstones that kept their lives on course.
Anthony Ricardo Paige, 61, a former nine-season running back for the New York Jets, Detroit Lions, and Miami Dolphins, was the keynote speaker for the evening. A heart-to-heart talk between athletes, coaches and the student-athletes who long to emulate them took place.
Paige, who attended DeMatha High School in neighboring Hyattsville, Md. before going pro, reminded the young athletes that the values they adopt off the football field would ultimately give them the courage to make a difference in their lives.
“Most of my friends I grew up with are dead, despite what anybody said about me, I made it,” said Paige. Paige talked about the sacrifices of fatherhood as he added that his father worked two jobs to send him to DeMatha High.
“Character is important, faith is important. My prayer every day is that my heart is pure,” Paige continued.
Coach Antonio Brown came to the banquet pushing his nine-month-old son.
“Father’s Day means a lot to me due to the fact that my father was incarcerated for 12 years when I was 15. There was a lot that was missed and it makes me want to do better about the
the way I approach fatherhood.”
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