There will be a time in life where someone, somewhere influences your life in a way that is best described as illuminating. And yet, you may never actually touch skin to skin with said person. However the energy of that person flows through you, within you and leaves an impression that shifts your way of thinking, of being. For me, Joe Paterno is one of those influences in my life. His dedication to academics and moral value for his players instilled in me these senses… If they - all his players- had to do well, with their efforts on the field and in the classroom than certainly I could balance schoolwork with my other college task of partying.
While JoePA held his players to higher standards than the norm for the NCAA, I could also hold myself to something more than average. And his wife, a woman who so openly loved and accepted him for all that he was, for all that we saw and didn’t see… a women who shows gratitude to others with meaningful gestures and handwritten notes… this is a family who vibrates with love.
And so when I had the opportunity to meet with one of their sons, Jay Paterno, to say I was buzzing with excitement is an understatement. Like a giddy freshman experiencing their first day of school, how appropriate the setting landed us in Freshman Hall.
Join me as Jay takes us through the magic of being raised by a legend.
He shares his personal favorite traditions, lessons and more here and in his book, Paterno Legacy: Enduring Lessons from the Life and Death of My Father.
As with all I see and feel in life, I take what serves me and leave the rest behind. This post isn’t about vilifying anyone if your beliefs fall in another playing field as mine. This is about sharing the values and lessons of family, of daily dedication to others, and of life. Please join me and may you find and visualize your own blue line within you for your family.
All the best, Stephanie
BUT WAIT! There’s MORE!!!! Can’t get enough? Jay answers questions about standing up for others, the safety of young children playing contact sports and work/life balance when raising a family. Comment below on how Jay’s story or JoePa has enhanced your life.
Do you keep a journal? How has writing this book been a healing journey for you?
I don't really keep a journal on a daily basis. I do try and write something almost every day but often kids, or other obligations get in the way. I start most days with an early morning walk with my dog and I get a lot of thinking done. That sparks a lot of what I write. As for the book, I don't know if it was a healing journey, but it was definitely a great journey to come to grips with having lost my father and so many of the other changes that had occurred in my life.
Both you and your father have/had high demanding jobs and you have to work to find that work/life balance. With many families have both parents working and demanding jobs, what advice from lessons learned growing up in the Paterno family do you pass on to those who walk a similar path?
The biggest pieces of advice that I learned are this: My father told me that as a parent "You are only as happy as your least happy child." and "When you are home BE home". The first part is pretty easy to grasp. Once you become a parent you live for your children and have dreams and aspirations for them. You will do anything to know they are growing up on a path that will insure they can be healthy and happy. As for the second part it was a reminder that it is not enough to just be home or in the house or with your kids--you have to be there mentally as well. You need to set aside your work concerns and your other issues and be there with them and focused on the time you have with them. If you aren't focused on them they will sense it and sense that they are secondary. We've all heard our kids say "Why are you on your phone again?" Don't just be there, truly BE there.
You played football, you coach and you're a parent. What do you say to parents who worry about the nature of football and the increased vigilance around concussions? What is the fear behind the worry and is it warranted?
Football is a collision sport and as such there is a risk of concussions. The protocols in place now are more advanced than they have ever been. I got knocked out in practice when I was in college. I practiced the next day. That's just the way it was. The key is to not rush children into full contact football. You're better off playing your son one year too late than one day too early. Allow them to grow and develop and be ready to play the game. With proper technique and vigilance to the rules protecting players we can lessen, but never totally eliminate, the threat of concussions. The key is to follow the advice of doctors. The tough guy in all of us wants to get back out there and play, but as I reminded the guys I coached--this is your BRAIN we are talking about, not a shoulder, or knee, or ankle. There is a heightened attention to the issue and that is a good thing. Every parent would worry about these things and that is natural, but the risk can be lessened and minimized with adequate training.
You talk in your book about the importance to take a stand for those who can't stand up for themselves. How has that been replicated in your life and how do we model this for our children?
I have always believed that we stand tallest as people when we bend to lift someone up. That has been a part of my family's life for as long as I can remember. We've given time and efforts to many philanthropic endeavors from helping fight pediatric cancer and malaria, promoting Special Olympics, endowing scholarships and now promoting awareness in the issues of child welfare in this country. I have required my own children to give their time and when they come home feeling better about themselves it is contagious and they want to recapture that sense of self-worth over and over again.
You speak of a proposition you encountered as a young boy for a sexual exchange with another man and the feelings of shame and blame, even though nothing happened. Sexual abuse, against males and females is possibly not a growing problem, but one that is now getting more media attention. Now that it's being named, and spoken about, in what ways does the story of Joe Paterno bring awareness to sexual abuse and is have you been able to see any positive in how everything occurred?
One of the things I have learned since this saga began is that 1 in 6 children will be abused in their lifetime. That is a staggering number. It is an issue that is difficult to talk about and as such it is not a high media priority because it makes people uncomfortable. But it is a crime that is all around us and hides in plain sight among the shadows of ignorance. The story that happened here with Jerry Sandusky will hopefully raise awareness. Our family has funded a report by former FBI Profiler and abuse survivor Jim Clemente that is valuable for parents and people who work with children to read. It is one way to raise our awareness. Access to that report is below: http://www.paterno.com/Expert-Reports/Jim-Clemente.aspx#.VEAnVGwtA5s