June/July 2009 Championship Fathering Jill Ewert Carey Casey
Carey Casey wants to start a revolution. He travels around the country, rallying and recruiting men to join him and asking them to enlist for the cause. His goal: an army of 6.5 million.
Not to be confused with any militant operation, Casey's is more of an intimate and personal quest: changing the world one championship father at a time.
For the last three years, Casey has been the CEO of the National Center for Fathering. It's a position he stepped into after a long career with FCA, through which he gained a reputation as an unparalleled speaker and an even greater minister and encourager. He's never met a stranger and genuinely cares for individuals and masses alike. Perhaps that's why his goal of 6.5 million dads — roughly 10 percent of the fathers in America — may be just the beginning.
Now with the release of his first book, Championship Fathering: How to Win at Being a Dad, Casey is finding himself closer to the onset of that revolution every day.
LIVING A DREAM
Carey Casey is passionate about many things. He loves to talk about his Lord Jesus Christ and considers it a privilege to share Him with others. He speaks with authentic affection and respect for his wife, Melanie, whom he still calls his bride. He raves about their four children — three grown (Christie, Patrice and Marcellus) with families of their own, and 12-year-old Chance who is still at home. And he beams like the lights at Kenan Memorial Stadium when you bring up the University of North Carolina, his alma mater and the site of his college football career.
But a different, more reverent look comes to Casey's face when the conversation turns to another topic close to his heart: his father, the late Ralph Casey. His voice lowers a little and even slows, as if to allow listeners the chance to absorb the wisdom he's about to share.
While touring the FCA speaking circuit, Casey shared with many audiences about the time when his father instructed him to "get on the bus" to FCA Camp despite the fact that it was filled with white athletes in an era of racial turmoil. But now, in his new role with what he and his staff call "the Center," Casey is opening the full gamut of wisdom instilled in him by his father, not just the things that relate to athletics.
"It took me a long time to realize it, but almost every new lesson I learn about fathering I can see illustrated somehow in my dad's life," he said. "That's not to say my father was perfect. There will never be a perfect dad except God. And, as perfect as He is, He has the most dysfunctional children, and I'm one of them. But when you come right down to it, virtually everything I know about fathering I saw in my dad."
Perhaps that is why Casey desires so greatly to change the fathering culture in America. He knows the weight a father can carry in a child's life. He knows how greatly a positive father-figure can empower a child and how the lack of one can crush them.
Now in his mid-50s, Casey gets a youthful giddiness when he talks about actually being employed to change the culture of fathers and pass down the wisdom he gained from Christ and from his dad.
He said simply: "I'm living out my dream."
DOWN TO BUSINESS
"Twenty-four million children will go to bed tonight without their biological father in their home," Casey shared, unmasked sadness in his voice. "When a father's not there or involved in a child's life, they're more likely to be poor, more likely to drop out of school, more likely to be involved in a violent crime, and girls are more likely to become pregnant as teenagers."
Further research from the Center shows that fatherlessness — which includes both the physical and/or emotional absence of a father in a child's life — facilitates anxiety, substance abuse, lack of confidence, a variety of physical and mental health problems and, ultimately, a loss of hope in children. With the divorce rate of today's marriages estimated at about 50 percent and kids being shuffled back and forth between joint-custody homes or raised by single parents, the opportunity for fathers to disengage from their children's lives is astronomical. Plus, it's the easy thing to do.
"I don't believe there is a greater challenge a man can take on than the task of being a husband and father. Sooner or later, fatherhood will take the best you can give, and then some." – Carey Casey
"I don't believe there is a greater challenge a man can take on than the task of being a husband and father," Casey said. "Sooner or later, fatherhood will take the best you can give, and then some."
The opportunity to take on a challenge is what Casey and the staff at the Center are hoping to capitalize on.
"Guys want to be champions," Casey said, "but, for some of these guys, no one's ever told them that they're champions. No one ever told them that, believe it or not, being a championship father is more important than winning the Super Bowl or an NBA Championship. When you win at being a father, that will live on after you are gone. It's your legacy. I won an ACC Championship ring at the University of North Carolina that doesn't even fit my finger anymore. People aren't asking if I won championships. They're asking what I'm doing in the lives of others."
Becoming a championship father is more than an idea. It's actually an initiative of the Center in which men can sign up and commit to living certain behaviors as a father. They can become part of a team of men who consciously decide to reverse the fatherless trend.
The process itself is simple. Men can visit the Center's Web site (fathers.com) and make a commitment. They also are given guidelines and asked not only to commit to acting out the characteristics of a championship father, but also to recruit other dads to do the same.
|Did you know that 2009 marks the 100th anniversary of the American celebration of Father's Day? In honor of the event, more than 100 national and local fathering organizations will be holding a rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on June 20.|
The rally has several goals, including the promotion of action-oriented father engagement in families and the encouragement of federal, state and local policies that will strengthen father connections to children.
Carey Casey will be among the featured speakers and will be joined by high-profile politicians, former professional athletes, actors and others to be named. For more information, visit fathers.com/rally.
There is even a call to men who have no children of their own. They can sign up to be championship fathers for kids without positive father-figures.
"It all comes down to a verse of Scripture that is very close to my heart," Casey said. "It's one that my predecessor at the Center, Dr. Ken Canfield, left in the middle of my desk: Malachi 4:6 (NIV) — the last verse in the Old Testament — which says, 'He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.'"
LOVING, COACHING, MODELING
The basics of championship fathering are what Casey discusses in detail in his book. According to the Center's research, there are three key fundamentals of fathering: loving, coaching and modeling. When these are carried out in the right way, it is statistically proven that children reap tremendous benefits.
First is a father's call to love his child. The son or daughter must know that they are accepted and valued regardless of failures and mistakes. They must be affirmed, supported and encouraged. They must enjoy security and protection — things a father is called to provide — and the availability of their dad.
"Children want to smell the Brut and the Hai Karate," Casey quipped, and then quickly retracted to insert Old Spice, instead. "They want a dad to say, 'You're OK.' One of the best things my dad did for me was to give me the freedom to fail. I knew in high school that if I dropped a pass, it was still OK for me to go home."
But truly being a loving father goes beyond the dad and his child.
"Dads must not only love the child unconditionally, he also must love the child's mother," Casey said. "Even if he's divorced, he still respects and loves that mother. He still does what is right before her and does not belittle her. Ideally, we want parents to stay together, but even if they can't be in a marriage anymore or are remarried, that dad still loves the child's mother."
In championship fathering, coaching goes beyond the athletic and into the Scriptural. Proverbs 22:6 says, "Teach a youth about the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it."
"Fathers must coach their children — and not just from the ballfield," Casey said. "What does a coach do? He's aware of his athletes. He's involved in their lives. He finds out what makes them tick, and then he instructs them accordingly based on that individual athlete."
"I said, 'Son, if you never touch a ball, Daddy loves you.'"
One of the biggest hurdles that fathers must overcome in this fundamental is the obstacle of time. Coaching a child isn't something that can be squeezed into an overcrowded calendar. It involves reprioritization and schedule maneuvering. Children must be ranked above career, leisure and anything else that comes against the family structure aside from God Himself and a man's relationship with Him.
As a child, Casey watched his father respond with dignity when he was referred to by racially degrading names. "Son, they just must not know my name," Ralph would say.
That lesson came to Casey's mind recently when he was preparing for a round of golf at a high-class course.
Even though he was dressed in what he calls "Tiger Woods duds" and looked every bit the part of a man about to hit the links, another golfer still approached him and asked him to carry his bags.
"Most likely, because I am African-American, he thought I was a caddie," Casey said. "So I calmly explained that I was there to play, and then we went on our way."
Carey Casey's ministry starts in his home with his family, pictured above in December 2007.
Casey's companions for the day were inspired (and a little stunned) by his ability to react with such class. But, because his father had modeled such poise for him, Casey was able to react in a similar manner.
"I can't respond out of the ordinary or belittle that man because my daddy wouldn't have," Casey said. "And that's what we have to do for our children. They are watching, and they want to see how we respond. We can't just preach it; we have to model it."
PASSING THE TORCH
Once a father signs on to join the championship fathering team, he is asked to encourage other dads to join in the cause as well — a challenge that has been made significantly easier by Tyndale House, the publishers of Championship Fathering. With the release of the book, they have created small-group material that allows men the opportunity to learn from and encourage one another other.
"This isn't a 'fluff' book," Casey said. "It's an active document that you can take around and use on a daily basis. We all need facts and information to back us up, and this book provides that. It provides the footnotes and bibliography."
Casey is a master storyteller. He is skilled at taking everyday scenarios and turning them into powerful spiritual lessons that can be applied to ordinary life.
One story he often uses to communicate the importance of his message involves two of his greatest loves: his son Chance and the game of football.
"A few years ago, Chance said to me, 'Dad, you and Marcellus both played football, but I don't like football,'" Casey recalled. "Then, when I took him with me when I spoke at chapel for the Kansas City Chiefs, some of the players asked him if he was going to play football. He told them no, that he didn't like it.
Go online to get your copy of Championship Fathering: How to Win at Being a Dad and sign up to be a championship father. Visit fathers.com.
Also, check out the latest release from Orlando Magic Senior Vice President Pat Williams, The Takeaway: 20 Unforgettable Life Lessons Every Father Should Pass on to His Child, which he co-wrote with his daughter Karyn. Available at amazon.com.
"The next week, he came to me with a question. He asked, 'Daddy, do you still like me and love me even though I don't like football?' He did not move his eyes. He needed to know. And so I said, 'Son, if you never touch a ball, Daddy loves you.'"
Casey realizes that kids need answers. They are asking that very question — "Do you love me regardless?" — to every dad out there. And Casey has made it his mission to help fathers respond appropriately.
"Championship fathering is an effort to change the culture for the children of today and of coming generations," Casey said. "Good fathering, even championship fathering, is within your reach. It doesn't matter where you're starting as much as it matters how you finish."
--For more stories about faith and sport, visit www.sharingthevictory.com, the official magazine of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. To subscribe to STV, click here.
Photos courtesy of the National Center for Fathering; Carey Casey; Tyndale House Publishers; Health Communications, Inc.