Opening the Football Playbook

Dr. Bob Barnes and Torrey Roberts, Parenting on Purpose

Football season is upon us. Whether you are a fanatic or “football-resistant” the fact is undeniable.  Here in South Florida we don’t have a lot of things that alert us to fall time. This may be the reason we all go crazy for our pumpkin lattes and fall decorations.  We don’t have the crisp air or the changing leaves. We may have a lift in the humidity but that is about it. One thing that we do have here is football. On Fridays, high school bands can be heard all over alerting us to the clash of the gridiron. And there are some VERY passionate college fans that surround us. So what does this have to do with parenting? So glad you asked….

Parents could learn a lot from football coaches. Right now as the season begins, coaches are not just thinking about getting through it. They are already working to help every player bring his “A” game to opening day and beyond.

The coaching principle of preparation is also true for parents. Opening day of the school year is upon us. This is the time parents must show up with their plan for a successful school year. Coaches do not wait for the first game to hold their first meeting. Long before the games begin coaches get together to develop a plan. They start by analyzing each player’s weaknesses and strengths. Once the plan is established, they inform the players. The players might not like the restrictions of the plan, but that does not matter. There is no vote by the players to see if they are all in favor. The coach’s purpose is not to be liked but to help each player reach his full potential.

It is common for the young people who come to live with us at Sheridan House Family Ministries to improve their school grades from D’s and F’s to A’s and B’s. Parents and teachers have often asked us what we do to help these boys and girls accomplish this dramatic improvement. Our answer, “There is nothing we do that we do not do with our own children.” We do not focus on a student’s grades any more than the coach focuses on a player’s touchdowns. The scores will come if proper preparation has taken place.


The Four R’s

As the school season begins this is the time for parents to focus on the four “R’s” of a successful school year. This starts by deciding to have Reasonable expectations about what can and needs to be on your family’s calendar this season. Your children cannot do it all… and they should not try to do it all!



 footballMake the family calendar your playbook.  Pick your top three activities and make everything else work around it. There are some obvious top choices: Family Time, School and Worship. Where on your calendar is the family night planned and what activities or games are you going to play? Turn the television and phones off that night, but be prepared that you may hear about this…

What times have you planned to attend your place of worship as a family? Put these times on the calendar. This is the time to decide about your priorities, and putting them in proper order is important. Decide which extra-curricular activities you will do and which you will say “no” to.  What is the priority? What does a child need most to become healthy, fully-functioning adults in the future? The first “R” for success is Reasonable.  Now is the time for parents to decide to help their children become healthy human beings rather than frazzled “human doings.”



The second “R” for a winning school year is Routine. Determine the school day routine for each child. In the NFL, the players do not vote on their daily routines and workouts. The coaches choose the routines for them. The schedule and school year routine is very important. Setting a routine and staying with it saves many parent/child arguments, but only when the child believes that you are committed to the routine. Knowing there is a specific bedtime on school nights and a routine to follow on school mornings will eventually help the child spend his energies on accomplishments rather than arguments.



This leads to the third “R”.  Winning coaches tell the players the plan, teach the players the plan and then they hold the players Responsible to follow through with the plan. As parents help their child start the school year, there will be challenges that develop. Challenges such as science projects and book reports should not be last minute disasters that parents have to help with.  

Coaches cannot run out on the field to help a player do something the player has not prepared for.  Parents need to anticipate the book reports, find out when they are due, put them on the calendar and then help the child work out a weekly reading schedule to get the job done. Hold the child responsible to sit down for those predetermined thirty minutes, two evenings a week, to get the book read. Teaching responsibility will help prepare the child for college.



The final “R” is the glue that holds the school year together. It is the parent/child Relationship.  Parents cannot just put a plan in place; they must also be the child’s greatest encourager.  Do not just have a plan, be the child’s fan.

Parental statements like, “I’m proud of you for getting your reading done before dinner,” will go a long way toward motivating a child to win at school. Knowing your mom is proud of you will also help you make the right decisions in life.

After all, what is the real purpose of school?  It is preparation for college and the real world. It is the process a child needs to go through to develop the discipline to excel as an adult. The school year is not something you get your child through. It is a process a parent uses to train their child. Proverbs 22:6 instructs parents to “Teach your child to choose the right path, and when they are older, they will remain upon it.”  


Parents should not try to motivate their children to do their best in school; parents should coach their children to do their best.  The beginning of the school year is a time for setting Reasonable schedules, establishing a Routine, teaching personal Responsibility and growing the parent/child Relationship.  To prepare a child properly for school is to prepare a child for life!  See ya out on the field!!


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