Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Penn State Sanctions and Families

Yes, another post about football.  I truly cannot help myself---nor do I feel the need for help of that kind. :)  Unless you live on another planet or under a rock, I'm sure you've heard of the terrible things that happened involving pedophile, Jerry Sanduskey, and the Penn State football program.  You've probably also heard about the sanctions imposed on that university and its football program by the NCAA.  The sanctions include the loss of 20 scholarships per year, a $60 million fine, no post-season appearances for 4 years and other various things in the fine print.  I've heard many different responses to this penalty, but the one I want to address today is the sentiment that you shouldn't punish the innocent student athletes.  And I can see their point---there will be at least 80 student athletes who will not have a scholarship. (And I know they can transfer, but the fact is that this reduces the number of scholarships available in total "out there"---no other university is getting "extra" scholarships to make up for Penn State's loss.)  But I was reading a column written by Jim Burton of The Ogden Standard-Examiner about the subject (his article can be found here: ), when the fog cleared and I understood why I agree with the NCAA.  I promise this WILL wind its way back to brain development, just get comfortable and hang on for the ride.

I want to share a story (and I promise I had to choose this one from thousands that came to mind.) Ben Laures was the starting linebacker for the Varsity Team at Plano Sr. High and shattered his wrist during a game.  However, before Ben was injured, he was penalized during the game.  On our team, players who are penalized have to run extra during the next practice.  But during the next practice, Ben was in surgery.  So the linebackers all got together and ran Ben's laps--without any word from the Coach.   Throughout more years as a Football Mom than I will admit publicly, I've seen my boys have to run the same play more than 30 times because ONE other player kept making the same mistake.  I've seen my boys have to run hills (yes, we had to build our own in Plano, TX) because another teammate mouthed off to the Coach.  I've seen the Varsity football team penalized THIRTY YARDS because one of our cheerleaders used inappropriate language with a referee. In a nutshell--football is a TEAM sport---to me, it is the most TEAM of all team sports.  We win as a team, we lose as a team, we are penalized as a team, we advance as a team, we celebrate as a team, and we are punished as a team.  I can't count the number of times I've heard coaches say and my sons repeat "There is no 'I' in team."

So there it is.  There are young men who had nothing to do with the terrible actions of Jerry Sanduskey nor did they participate in the coverup of those actions.  But if they are on Penn State's team, they will be punished along with the rest of the team.  The crimes committed were so heinous that no yellow flag, no whistle, and no run-til-you-puke practices will be an adequate punishment.  But if Penn State is truly a team, then they will do just as Plano Sr. High's linebackers did when they ran laps for Ben----they will take the punishment without complaint and bear the burden of their teammates.  If State College, PA understands this, they will also bear this penalty without whining---because the folks in the stands are very much a part of that team.  I hope Penn State will do just as Plano's linebackers did----bear the punishment and then focus on the next game.  Hopefully, they will emerge from this better and stronger, with more resolve to always do right.  They stand at the threshold of an opportunity to do so.

And so it is in families----we are also a team.  We win as a family, we suffer loss as a family, we celebrate as a family and sometimes we endure life's seeming lack of fairness as a family.  And I've never met anyone who thought a family member with a brain injury (in its many and varied forms) was fair.  Honestly, isn't life hard enough without someone's brain bearing challenges?  But the BEST teams and the BEST families pull together and focus on moving forward together instead of whining and complaining about the circumstances.  They don't crumble and fall apart because something didn't go their way, they pull each other up (another time-honored football tradition) and get in the huddle and figure out how to make the next play work in their favor.  I've seen teams and families get angry with one another, blame on another, and single out members as the cause of the problem----and those teams and families don't win. 

PLEASE win!  If your child is struggling with learning and academics, social interaction or physical coordination, please call me.  Please read every single page at to inform yourself of the options to help your child----and then solve the problem as a team!