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Single Mother The New Father Volume I: Sports, The Mother’s Playing Field Secrets for Navigating the Man’s World ofAmateur Sports

By Cathleen E. Williams, RN, Esq. ISBN # 978-0-9817111-64


Single Mother The New Father Volume I: Sports, The Mother’s Playing Field Secrets for Navigating the Man’s World of Amateur Sports

By Cathleen E. Williams, RN, Esq.

Arthur Ashe, one of the world’s greatest tennis players and a brilliant human being, said, “Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.” Arthur Ashe

To fathers,

Your scent, your approval and your love can never be replaced. Your love and your voice are vital to the

spirit and self-actualization of your child. Your active

and healthy participation saves generations. Take your rightful place in your family and in the lives of your

children. With you in place, the “new father” can stand down and be who God called her to be … Mom.

Acknowledgments To the amazing families who blessed us with interviews, you are living proof that mothers can and should step into the world of amateur sports. Congratulations on all the amazing work you do, and the wonderful relationships you have with your children. Because of you and your stories, this book gives millions of mothers the vision of women who have successfully navigated this arena. I am ever so grateful to all of you.

To my beloved friends and family, so many of you made this book possible and this work worthwhile. I thank you and appreciate you more than you can ever know.

To my son Sean, Mommy loves you Pumpkin. Because of all the hard work you put in throughout your entire life, other single moms and children of single parents will have the benefit of knowing all of the secrets in this book. You have always made me tremendously proud, and because you suggested I document our story, I dedicate this book to you. With all my love,


endorsements “As a former little league and soccer coach, I witnessed single mothers bringing their kids out to the park and dropping them off until the end of practice. I always insisted that they stay and get involved. Cathleen is right on point. What she says to single mothers is something that should have been said long ago. I taught moms the ins and outs of baseball, and once they learned it they loved it. We had fun. If your son’s coach is not engaging you in the sport, engage yourself, or find another coach. I love the fact that she tells single moms the hard-core simple truths like not dating the coach. She’s right. I dated a single mom or two when I was coaching. I never let the kids know which mom I was dating, even the child of the mother I was dating didn’t know. Telling the single mom not to date the coach is not what I would have said at the time, but looking back when I was dating a single mom or two, and while we never let the kids know, I would agree it is probably best…don’t date the coach.” B. Barham, Equestrian, Riding Instructor, Father

“Single Mother the New Father is a work that is no nonsense, and no frills. Cathleen is willing to share her truths in this series in such a way that provides single mothers with straightforward, easy to follow concepts and advice that can change their lives forever. It is a book whose time is now.” Bill Bartman, Financial Expert and Author Billionaire Secrets of Success

“Cathleen Williams shares her invaluable insight and personal experiences with readers that will greatly assist single mothers in raising their sons to become men first; and athletes second. Her book will help single mothers develop and navigate through the journey of amateur sports. Through her words and firsthand encounters, Williams provides endless encouragement and direction; a must read for all single mothers raising sons.” Troy Robert Bowers, New York Knicks Community Relations and Field Marketing Specialist, Motivational Speaker and Mentor

“When I first heard the title, ‘Single Mother The New Father,’ I said to myself, here's another one of those books. After reading it, I found myself relating to an experience between a son and his mother; absent the full engagement of his father, a relationship that mirrored the one with my mom. The book is a refreshingly honest book about the struggle of raising males without the assistance of a full-time and active father. Although some may disagree with the notion of "The New Father," one can't deny or argue the difficult realities that single mothers face raising children. Thank you, Cathleen, for having the courage for telling this personal, yet all too common experience.” Kenneth Braswell Author When the Tear Won't Fall and Gentle Warriors

“I work with single mothers who are raising young men and women, and this book is an absolute must for our community. If I could, I would put one in the hands of every single mother that I know. Thank you Ms. Williams!” Jody Ann Buckle, RN, MA, Nurse Practitioner

“Cathleen Williams has penned a must-read book for every woman raising a young man alone. Sharing insights gleaned from personal experience, she gives valuable advice - as well as a helpful list of do's and don'ts - on how to navigate through youth and high school sports. Williams also provides excellent and necessary tools every mother, grandmother and aunt can use in molding and developing a boy's confidence in sports, and more importantly, in life.” Malik Carey, Poet, Motivational Speaker, and Mentor.

“Cathleen offers an incredible gift to single moms in this book. My mother also saw the importance of this beautiful lesson as she kept my brothers and I involved in football, the church band, track and baseball. These activities kept us mentally, spiritually and physically involved year round. Reading Cathleen's book reminded me so much of how involved my mom, (who was also a single parent) was in keeping me involved and the many life lessons that came from this involvement.” Mike Jones, Founder and President Discover Leadership Training, Author, Motivational Speaker

“Definitely an eye-opening truth guide for single mother parenting... exposing life's pitfalls and triumphs through maternal love, self reliance, and reverse role-playing for children. Translations for the times for single mother parenting with class!”

Jay "The Doc" Leitzsey Former Two-Time Athletic Champion/Fitness Expert, LifeCoach/Motivational Speaker Owner, Body of Godz Training Facility

“Cathleen is an exciting speaker, producer, and well rounded individual who creates energy in the room whenever she is presenting. Her workshops have such an impact because she brings to life real issues, not only for herself, but for her attendees as well. I can relate to Cathleen's message because I was raised by a single African American female and my brother and I have reached a level of success in life directly as a result of the foundation our mother provided us with. Cathleen's message is needed in our community because our sisters have struggled and at the same time, there is a light at the end of the tunnel!” Jason Murray, President & CEO, Murray Abundant Network, LLC

“I have never read anything quite like this book; no one has ever presented information for women quite this way. I am very happy that mothers now have access to what they really need to know about putting their children in sports. I'm married raising two sons, and the information in this book, especially about searching for scholarships, was very valuable to me. This is a critical read for mothers single or not!” Shandel Pitts Mom and CEO, Black Cat Designs

“Cathleen’s insight is first-rate. She has taken a viewpoint that some can only whisper about; a powerful and masterfully delivered perspective.”

Michael Potter, nationally recognized attorney and author

“I speak to thousands of at-risk children and teens about sports, encouraging them to choose the right path in life and believe in themselves. Working with these children, I remember just how much sports helped me when I was growing up. Single Mother The New Father: The Mother’s Playing Field is the only book of its kind to provide single mothers with tips, suggestions, recommendations and a real life look at what goes on in children’s sports from a mother’s perspective. You will learn a great deal about your son, about sports, and how to use sports to build an incredible relationship with your son in the process! For every mother with a son in sports, this book is a must read.” Michael Walton, World Class Track and Field Athlete, Founder of the Michael Walton Foundation

“This book proves to men that they are needed. Thank you Cathleen. No one has ever laid this experience out so that men understand exactly what is going on from a woman's perspective. Maybe more men will get more involved with their children, especially their boys after reading this book.”

Henry Williams, Real Estate Advisor

Table of Contents Acknowledgements Foreword by Sean Roker Introduction Secrets: 1. Not If, But What Is The Question 2. Don’t Date the Coach! 3. Learn the Rules, Develop a Jump Shot 4. Get in the Game, Get the Game into You 5. Head Coach Mom 6. Sticks and Stones Hardly Ever Break Bones 7. It’s all in His Head 8. Throw it in The Bag 9. Heels Sink in the Mud 10. D.W.A. (Driving With Athletes) 11. Ignorance of the Law is No Excuse 12. The Early Mom Gets the Scholarships Bonus: Make Sure He Can Take Out the Trash Conclusion Interviews


By Sean Roker (Cathleen’s son)

I am 5’8” and 150 pounds. I have always been considered a relatively small and skinny kid, and I’ve had to wear glasses since the 1st grade. When I tell people I am an athlete they tend to be skeptical, especially when I have my glasses on. While writing this, I decided to ask a few of my best friends what their first impression of me was based on my appearance. Let’s just say, “athletic” is not how they described me. Once they saw me on the court, on the field or in the gym, however, it was very clear that I am indeed an athlete.

Despite my small frame and academic appearance, I have always been heavily involved in sports. My mother and father grew up playing sports, so they both insisted that I do the same. Needless to say, I started rather young. As a matter of fact, I cannot remember a time in my life when I wasn’t playing sports. I have pictures of myself as a baby in a walker, holding a tennis racquet twice my size. Playing sports wasn’t really a choice for me. It was a lifestyle. Even though my parents divorced when I was very young, one thing was consistent in both households: no matter where I was, or which parent I was with, I had to play a sport. I played to stay busy, I played for exercise and I played for fun. I played to relieve stress and I played to make friends. I met some of my best friends through sports, and it’s funny, no matter how much time passes between our visits, when we get together and watch or play a sport, it seems like no time has passed at all. The idea of not being involved in sports has never crossed my mind. Sports are in my DNA. When I was four years old, my mother approached Randy Ayers (former basketball coach for The Ohio State University) about getting me into the Ohio State basketball program for kids. I was much too young then, but that never stopped her. She looked for the best programs

in the area and decided to put me in a local Columbus, Ohio soccer program to keep me active, so I was introduced to formal team sports programs before I started elementary school.

I lived with my father for a while in Virginia, and he had me involved in sports as well. He always talked to my coaches about what I needed to work on. If I needed to practice dribbling a basketball with my left hand, he would give me a ball and show me the drills I needed to perfect that skill. If I had trouble remembering certain plays, he would run them with me over and over until they were like second nature. He even coached my Little League baseball team for a season, because in Virginia, these things were common for a father to do.

I moved to New York City to live with my mother again after elementary school, and that is when I started to narrow down the sports I wanted to play. I was pretty good in baseball, basketball and soccer, and I really could have chosen any sport. I decided tennis was the sport I wanted to pursue, so my mom got to work. She played with me on the court every time she had an opportunity, and she navigated the tennis world almost to perfection using the lessons documented in this book.

You, the lucky reader, have the benefit of learning from the things that she did right, but you also get to learn from the things she found out after doing them wrong.

During my tennis career, mom found a lot of programs that were run by the city or had scholarship opportunities, so she didn’t have to break the bank in order to pay for them. She made sure I was able to play tennis year round (in New York, indoor tennis fees are very high), and that I trained with and played against some of the best players in the world. As a result of the information Mom gathered and shares with you in this book, I was able to travel to London to compete in a United States vs. United Kingdom tournament, and I also attended Wimbledon, one of the four largest and most prestigious major tennis tournaments in the world. She also

made sure I tried out for the position of ball boy at the US Open, the only one of the four major tennis tournaments that takes place in America. I was hired and rehired as a ball person every year for four years straight. I was ball person for some of the best tennis players in the world at the US Open, and being there on the court with them, watching them fight to win one of the most important matches in the world, encouraged me, motivated me, and of course helped me improve my game.

Being involved in tennis exposed me to a great deal. Throughout my career as a player, I’ve had the opportunity to hit with some of the top tennis players in the world, including Andy Roddick and Venus Williams. I won a few tournaments, and in my freshman year as a member of the Stuyvesant High School tennis team, we placed second in the Mayor’s Cup, the largest scholastic tennis event in the United States.

When my mother and I speak at events and conferences, we dispel a lot of myths about sports. Many of the mothers we meet assume the role of a coach is to teach their athletes everything necessary to excel in their sport. They think the coach will seek out the best colleges, scholarships and opportunities, and assist his athletes in taking advantage of all kinds of wonderful programs. Some extraordinary coaches do just that. However, many do not, so it is best to do your own homework.

You may not believe this, but some coaches know less than the players and their parents about sports. Some others are interested in forwarding their own careers and will only support and promote the most talented players with the greatest potential.

The amount of time and effort a coach invests in a player is often directly related to the amount of time the player and his parents invest in themselves. Regardless of the type of coach I had, mom had one rule of thumb: she would never expect or allow any coach to be more committed or involved in my sports career or my life than she was. She also made sure I followed

the same rule.

For the mothers who are still wondering if they should read this book, consider this: fun and exercise were a mere fraction of the many benefits I received from playing sports. I also learned how to conduct myself in times of adversity and how to interact with players from different backgrounds, races, cultures and countries. I learned how to lose like a champion, with my confidence and dignity intact. I also learned how to pick myself up after a devastating loss and prepare to be a winner again. I learned respect, self-assuredness, and how to manage the fear of failure and the fear of success. The list of life lessons I learned from sports goes on and on, but above all, I learned that if I work hard enough I can accomplish anything. You don’t have to wonder if your child is getting the best possible experience out of his athletic endeavors. Allow our story to guide you. It will provide you and your child with the secrets to successfully navigating amateur sports, and you will have a lot of fun while doing it! Your kids will thank you, I promise. P.S. Thank you mom.

Sean Roker

Introduction Everything I needed to know about life, I learned on the tennis court. Every day, I watched my father, other men, a few women, and lots of children interact on and around the tennis court, and they taught me basic life skills that I still rely on. I learned skills that helped me: 1. Professionally: such as teamwork, a work ethic, leadership, responsibility, accountability, fairness, structure, practice, planning, execution, timeliness, policy and procedure, commerce, trade, marketing, finance economics, competition;

2. Personally: self-preservation, nutrition, exercise, courtesy, etiquette, mental and physical flexibility, dedication, focus, determination, honesty, courage, assertiveness, power, selfconfidence, self-esteem; and 3. Socially: social skills, bonding, effective communication skills, politics, law, drugs, violence, discernment, grooming, networking, and even the art of seduction.

Who knew that by being on the tennis court I was gathering up life skills that I would use every day for the rest of my life? I was just happy to be hanging out with my dad, soaking up sunshine, laughing, joking, running, playing and working up a good sweat. For Dad and I, tennis created a safe place for us, and it was often the excuse we used to just hang out when we were upset about something or mad at each other. I could easily put my anger aside for a trip to the park to hit. Dad could teach me lessons about power, selfishness and respect with one shot. One backhand down the line at lightning speed would remind me of my weaknesses and his wisdom. After several shots that I couldn’t even get to, much less return, I was reminded that maybe, just maybe, he knew a little more than I did about life. I’m still learning.

Years later, when I decided to teach my son tennis, I returned to the same place where I learned about life to teach those lessons to him. I was the parent now, and while it was still fun, there was also hard work, structure and management things that escaped me when I was the child. Children’s sports is a business, make no mistake about it. Children are expected to practice, compete, win and then practice some more. There is the underlying spirit of competition and seriousness about winning, not only at sports but also at business. As the parent, I had to learn the business of sports, the politics of sports and how to effectively navigate the experience. When I neglected to work the system effectively, Sean was overlooked, ignored and sometimes even mistreated. I learned by trial and error just how much my father did for me behind the scenes. Dad spoke to my coaches and coordinated my lessons and playtime. He practiced with me daily, taught me form, basic strokes, the rules of the game, and then he turned me over to the coaches who prepared me for matches and playing on the team. Twenty years later, I was the HPIC (head parent in charge) and I was surprised to find that it was a completely different ballgame. Thank God I understood the game, so I was one step ahead of most of the mothers in my position.

My goal was for Sean to experience what tennis provided for me: a hobby, a sport and physical activity that he can participate in for life, or at least for as long as he stays healthy, fit and active! I also wanted the same relationship with Sean that I had with my father, but I did not understand at the time that my father created that special relationship, it did not just happen. My girlfriends didn’t have the same relationships with their fathers, so they wondered how we managed to be so close. It was not until years after Dad passed away that I realized what he did and how it shaped our relationship. Joseph, a friend of mine, is 42 years old, a successful attorney and has a daughter. During one of our many conversations about his athletic career, he said, ”I really love my mom. She was at every single one of my high school games. He choked up a bit as he ventured back to the hot crowded gyms in his mind. “I would look up in the stands for my dad before every game, but he didn’t come. I invited him, but he just never came. Mom was always right there; I never even had to look for her. I could

hear her, shouting, cheering and waving at me when she caught my eye. I never told her, but I loved it. All the other kids had their dads there. That was hard to deal with. But, having mom there meant the world to me.”

Joseph’s story let me know that this bond, this relationship I was building with my son was about more than just showing up. It was about strengthening a young man’s spirit, helping him to feel important, and helping him to become a confident and successful young man and move past the hurt of not having his father around. Listening to adult Joseph, I imagined how young Joseph would have felt if his mother had not been in the stands when he looked out there before each game. Who would Joseph be today if his mother wasn’t willing to step up to the plate and fill in the gaps?

When I became a single parent, my confusion about being a single mother raising a son was overwhelming. I wondered how I would do it all, but I was not going to take any chances with Sean. I decided to be an interactive, very involved mother, and to be a partner in his athletic endeavors. Because I was an athlete and knew his sport, it was easy for me to get involved, and I decided to go all the way. I was in the stands, of course, but I was also out there with Sean playing, training, and practicing with him, working every angle of the game. I didn’t know where this road would lead, but it turns out that I hit pay dirt! We have a tremendous relationship, a great friendship, lots of great tennis memories and a message that will help single moms and dads with their children as icing on a delicious cake.

Please note: The title of this book series, Single Mother the New Father, is designed to beg the question. While a mother cannot take the place of a father in her child’s life, women head nearly ten million single parent households. By default, single mothers have to juggle and manage everything pertaining to their children. Whether fathers have the kids every weekend, they are absent completely, or another type of arrangement exists, custodial, head of household single mothers are often playing double duty. Babysitting, childcare, education, medical appointments, illnesses, extracurricular activities, Boy Scouts, play dates, cooking, nutrition, laundry, grooming, hygiene, cleaning, security, homework, life skills, work, bills, family and puberty are just a few of the things parents have to work through. The list does not shrink when there is only one parent. I always felt like I was juggling five balls with my hands and another three with my feet. Single

motherhood definitely kept me hopping. If I didn’t do it, it didn’t get done. If I didn’t take my son to practice or coordinate a ride, he didn’t get there. If I didn’t go to his games, he was there alone. What a daddy would have done, I did. I love tennis and I love sports, so I never thought twice about getting involved. It was fun for me. The lack of other moms out there and the tremendous benefits and support available for our children made me realize that natural or not, this is an area where moms can make a remarkable impact on their sons while building a platform for a mother/child relationship that will blossom beyond imagination.

It takes two people to create a child, and there is more than enough for two people to do to raise a healthy well-adjusted person. If one parent is missing, the other has to pick up the slack, or else a void is left in the life of the child. In the area of sports, the benefits to mothers and children are extensive so I have written this book to assist single mothers in taking advantage of those benefits and help them to avoid the pitfalls. These pages are filled with 22 years of experience, wisdom, pain, hope, joy and love. Relish in the successes, avoid the mistakes, but most of all, relax, have fun, and watch the child you are raising become the person God intended him to be. There is no question that single mothers can do this. We see it done every day. You can do it, and I have written this book so that you know you are not alone. I do make reference to raising sons throughout this book, however everything included here will benefit your daughters as well.


Single Mother The New Father Volume I: Sports, The Mother’s Playing Field Secrets for Navigating the Man’s World of Amateur Sports

By Cathleen E. Williams, RN, Esq.

Sean Roker with tennis racquet

Growing up, I played basketball, tennis, baseball, soccer and football. I don’t remember ever deciding which sports I wanted to play, only which ones I wanted to continue. Choosing a sport is similar to choosing a first pair of shoes or what preschool to go to. Once you make the decision for your child, they will generally roll with it, especially if you make it fun. – Sean Roker

Secret #1


Not If, But What Is the Question icking a sport for your son is not rocket science. Just pick one and stick with it! It takes time to develop mastery in a sport, so get started now! You do not have to wait until your child is old enough to choose a sport for himself. Tiger Woods started playing golf at 9 months old. The golf clubs were much too big for little Eldrick Tont “Tiger” Woods to swing, so his father created 1

Single Mother The New Father

one. He sawed off the handle of a club to make it short enough for little Eldrick to swing. Tiger’s father made the choice that he would learn golf when he was just a little cub. Tiger is not the only one – many famous athletes started in their sport of choice because of their parents. Lebron James’ mother, Gloria James, gave him a hoop and a miniature ball when he was just an infant. Richard Williams, father of the famous Williams sisters, taught his daughters Venus and Serena tennis when they were very young, after he taught himself the game. President Barack Obama attributes his love for basketball to the fact that his father gave him a basketball when he was 10 years old. I gave my son his first tennis racquet when he was still in diapers.

There is absolutely nothing to fear about choosing a sport. Choose a sport that you already play, want to learn, or one that you like to watch. Just pick one. Provide the coaches and training your child needs, stay engaged and be patient. Like anything else, there will come a time in your child’s life when playing the sport will be more difficult than fun. It will be hard to get to the next level of skill, so it will be necessary to endure and support your child during those times. However, if your son dislikes the sport you have chosen, or he is just not very good at it, try another sport. As a matter of fact, try several until you have a good fit: a sport that he has the ability to excel in and one that he enjoys. There are many athletes who play more than one sport. Lebron James, a professional basketball player, was an All-American football player in high school. Michael Jordan, arguably the best basketball player of all time, played baseball and football in high school. He played professional baseball after retiring from the NBA in 1994. Jim Brown, arguably the best football player of all time, was an All-American at Syracuse University in both football and lacrosse. Tiger Woods (golf), Roger Federer (tennis), and David Beckham (soccer) all play basketball for fun, and any number of athletes are golfers during their off season. Don’t limit yourself or your child. Add or change a sport when you believe you should, but don’t give up on a particular sport, or decide against one because it gets hard. If it was easy, everyone would be great. There were many days when my son wanted to quit tennis. Usually it was after a loss, a really tough day of training or getting reamed by the coach. When it came time to take his playing up a 2

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notch, or when his opponents were consistently better than he was, he often got frustrated and wanted to quit. I remember the scene like it was yesterday. Sean would slump into the car, or the kitchen or wherever he decided to deliver the blow. Lips pouting, head hung low with sunken shoulders, he would blurt it out, “I don’t want to play tennis anymore.” Knowing that I made it a requirement for every child living under my roof to play a sport (even though he was the only child living under my roof), he would follow his statement with, “I’ll take up football, basketball, whatever. I am sick of tennis. I quit!”

The most important thing I could do in that moment was pay very close attention to him and listen. After all, this was my son and his pain was real. These moments were about more than just giving up. He convinced himself, each time, that he was not good enough, and pressing forward would make him feel less competent and less qualified than he already felt. He felt like a failure and it hurt. Facing that feeling every day was too much for his spirit to handle, so he would rather do something that he thought had more promise, something he could be better at, something easier. He wanted a new beginning. I could feel his pain once I allowed myself to listen. By empathizing with him, instead of trying to make the hurt go away, I was able to remember the days that I wanted to quit something that was difficult. I remembered days when my self-esteem tanked so low I couldn’t crawl under it. Once he got it all out, I would always acknowledge his feelings and validate them by letting him know that I could imagine what it felt like to have a bad day doing something that he worked so hard at. I let him know how much I appreciated the fact that he trusted me enough to share his feelings with me. I realized it wasn’t easy for him to tell me how he felt, not because he didn’t want to share his feelings, but because I knew how much he really loved playing tennis. Feeling like a failure in the sport he loved had to be a terrible feeling for a young child. It was important that he knew his feelings were legitimate and I could identify with his pain. My response was consistent -

“Honey, I understand that this is difficult for you, and that you are very frustrated with yourself and your game. You have a right to want to quit. I remember wanting to quit when things got hard for me too, 3

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not just in tennis, but in life. I did not always win, and you will not either; not in tennis, not in any sport and not in life. Sometimes you will face defeat; sometimes things will get hard, so hard you will think it is impossible to make it, but you can, if you face your fears and fight the dragons. Maybe you’ll decide you want to quit tennis, and I will support you in that, so long as you are quitting because you no longer love the game, not because you are afraid to lose. If it is hard, you have to work harder, toughen up and improve your skills. Practice more. Change how you look at the game and at your opponents. If you want your game to change you have to do something different, otherwise you will always perform the way you are performing now! That is how champions are made. Finally Sean, don’t make the decision to quit anything when you are feeling frustrated and upset. Give yourself time to rest and rejuvenate, then review your thoughts and how you are feeling. Just sleep on it.”

By the time I said “sleep on it” his body language would always start to change. He would loosen up, his shoulders would drop down about four inches, and as he relaxed and started to feel less anxiety, his facial muscles would uncrumple and calm and relief would replace the tension, frustration, and anger in his mind and body. That’s when we could begin the conversation. Prior to my little motivational speech, he might as well have hung a sign that read, “CLOSED TO ALL LOGIC AND COMMUNICATION” on his forehead! I spoke to my son then, the same way my business and personal coaches speak to me now, and guess what? It worked.

Tennis (and every other sport) requires tenacity and diligence; hence why playing a sport builds character. It can be blazing hot or freezing cold on the court or the playing field. It takes hours upon hours of stroke repetition/practice to master form, and after all of that hard work, sweat, and sometimes blood and tears, players still make errors. There is always another level, and there is always more to learn and achieve. Tennis, football, soccer… whatever the sport, it takes consistency, dedication and skill to be successful. No sport is easy. Once I got this through to my son, I would ask him this question: “Are you willing to sleep on it tonight and to give yourself one week before you make a decision?” After a few years of hearing me say the same thing, he knew what I was going to say, and he also knew I 4

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would only accept one answer. Yes. It was really a rhetorical question. Nevertheless, he was always eager to wait that one week, mainly because in his heart of hearts, he did not really want to quit. What he wanted was to improve and be supported as he learned how to be successful.

During the “waiting” week, I did not leave Sean alone to make his decision, nor did I leave his decision to chance. I gathered information for him to read and evaluate, and I gathered people for him to speak to. I would pull together examples of great athletes who lost games or experienced defeat in some way. In tennis, Andre Agassi provided me with most of my material. His fall from the top of the tennis world and the passion and dedication it took to make his comeback is an incredible story, which he describes in his autobiography titled Open. I recommend it to anyone involved in sports. I also researched magazine articles that addressed Sean’s concerns, and books that provided information about the mental side of sports. I would flip through the books, find the appropriate sections, and ask Sean to read them. Sometimes, I would go through them with him and I didn’t stop there. I called his coaches, friends, and anyone who played sports and asked them to call Sean, take him out to play basketball, hit tennis balls, have some fun, and of course, to talk. My approach was to get Sean to delay his decision until he had more information and was less emotional.

Knowing your son better than anyone else, you will be able to determine what will work with him, and how to help him. Maybe you will decide that it’s best to let him quit. That would not be the end of the world, but you should allow it only if there is a really good reason. “I lost” or “I’m scared” are not good reasons.

I want to encourage you to be involved and stay engaged. This is hard work for both you and your son. It can also be emotionally draining some days, but it is worth every second. So, don’t stress, pick a sport and go for it! Fencing, swimming, bowling, golf, whatever, just pick one. Avoid basing your decision on stereotypes, race, gender, body type, disability, etc. Pick a sport early on and learn the sport yourself—at least the basics of the game—and make sure you both are having fun. I chose 5

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tennis before Sean took his first breath. Don’t be afraid to do the same thing; and like Nike says, just do it.


Akua Wright and son, Brian Wright-Kinsey Photograph by Kenny Wright

One of the most important things that parents should think about as they travel to practices, games, or even schools with their children is that kids have to be there all the time. Parents are visitors; spectators. Especially in sports environments, when interactions are usually very public. Relationships can sometimes complicate your life. They can also confuse, alienate or disappoint your kids. - Sean Roker


Secret # 2

Don’t Date the Coach! his is a hard lesson to learn. Single mother … attractive, single … did I say single? Well it is worth saying again, single. Women spend tons of money—okay, I spent tons of money buying books and magazines, listening to all kinds of dating advice on where to meet eligible men. They tell you what kinds of establishments to frequent, Home Depot, museums, libraries, bars, auto mechanic classes, investment groups, etc. Who knew that I, Cathleen Williams, would find a built-in pool of responsible, eligible, 7

Single Mother The New Father

educated, handsome and athletic bachelors at every sports event I attended with my son! Tall men, short men, skinny men, big men, gorgeous single men; everywhere I looked… men. I was in a single woman’s paradise. I was kind of cute and athletic, and since my son was good at his game, I got a good deal of attention (kind of like a celebrity, if your child is good at his or her sport, people will want to know you). At first glance, I easily could have had my pick of the eligible bachelor litter, but as my father used to say, “Hold your horses, Cathy, not so fast!” And as I say, “Whenever something seems too good to be true, it usually is.”

So think about it for a moment. A single mother finds herself in the midst of tons of lovely eligible bachelors and decides to date one of them, but it doesn’t work out, so she dates another. Now two men may not seem like a lot, but in case you did not know, men gossip too. A lot. Do you remember playing the telephone game when you were a kid? You know, the game where one person whispers something to someone else, and everyone continues to whisper the message from person to person until it gets to the last person in the line or circle, who then recites the message out loud? The message, once it has been passed around the group, is usually so distorted that no one can believe how much it changed, and everyone in the circle usually has a good laugh. When this happens in real life, the end result and message isn’t always so funny. Imagine this, a mother dated only two guys, but by the time that message passes from person to person around the park, two men becomes five men, five becomes ten and before you know it, that single mother is a name that sounds like a gardening tool (h-o-e). Kids gossip too! Once they get wind of the information, they will likely tease and taunt your son, so that instead of concentrating on his game, he is arguing and maybe even getting into fights to defend your honor. Don’t date the men in the park, and God forbid you should date the coach. Never do that! The Game is a television series that every single mother with a son in sports should not only watch but also study. The Game provides an inside look (although fictional) into the drama between men and women in the world of sports, and it is also very funny. Tasha Mack is the hardcore, edgy and very attractive agent and manager for her son, Malik Wright (quarterback for the San Diego Sabers, a 8

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professional football team). Tasha knows everything there is to know about football. She is on top of her game as an agent and makes sure her son gets the best plays, endorsements and representation. There is one episode in particular when Malik gets into a scuffle on the field, causing a riff with his coach. To work things out, Tasha talks to the coach about Malik over dinner. By the end of the dinner, Tasha is not only on top of football, she is literally on top of the coach. A relationship develops which leads to embarrassing gossip and conflict between Tasha, Malik, the team and the coach. Malik gives his mother an ultimatum: “You have a choice to make, it’s either going to be your job as my agent, or your relationship with my coach. You can’t have both.”

The coach eventually dumps Tasha for other reasons, but the point here is that coach-mother relationships do not usually work in professional or amateur sports. Take my advice. Do not cross the field. Stay on the sidelines and keep your love life out of the game.

As the parent of a child in sports, you are the agent, and dating the coach presents a serious conflict of interest. You are in charge of your child’s sports career and it is really his career right now. This is your child’s “out there in the world” training, respect the process, respect your child, respect yourself. Everything in life comes down to choices and the results of those choices. I am not suggesting that you should be paranoid, introverted or afraid of the coaches. Quite the contrary, you should get involved - very involved. Just remember that this is your child’s sacred space. It is about the game—but not the dating game.

I never dated any of the fathers at the park, but I did date a couple of tennis players. None of the relationships lasted, nor were they worth the risk, and yes, I confess, I did date a coach. He wasn’t one of Sean’s coaches at the time, but a tennis coach nevertheless. When he offered to train Sean, yours truly thought it was a great idea. NOT! That arrangement doesn’t work either. The minute you disagree with the boyfriend/coach (which I did), it affects your relationship (which it did), and the day the relationship ends (which it did), the coaching will likely be over (and it was). Take my advice and make it easy on yourself. Don’t play on your kids’ playing field. Don’t play games 9

Single Mother The New Father

with your son’s game. Follow the advice in the magazines and dating books, go to Home Depot, a sports bar or a museum. Here is a rule of thumb, from the mouth of renowned trumpeter Miles Davis who told my sister and I repeatedly, “Don’t date the help.” Here is what Miles Davis considered the help: “If you are paying him, or he’s providing a service, he’s the help. Don’t date the help!”

Oh, and here is one more tip: Every coach does not have your son’s best interest at heart. Understand that. Some coaches will use your son or anything else to get to you or your money. Be aware, be vigilant, be cautious and research everything. Check references. Do not take anyone’s word for anything, and if it sounds strange, if the coach/person is asking you for money or possessions you cannot afford, or if you feel uncomfortable in any way, just don’t do it. Just because a man or woman carries the title “coach” does not mean he is trustworthy.

At least one married coach had his eyes on me, and silly me thought he was being so nice because he was interested in helping my “very talented son,” which was the way he referred to Sean, and I believed him. His prices for coaching were astronomical. It was hard for two working parent households to afford his fees. For a single mother with a temp job just out of law school and a ton of debt, his fees were very hard for me to pay. He was, however, the most talented coach in our community at the time. Sean loved him and loved training with him, so I sacrificed everything I could to afford him. Kids from all over New York, of all nationalities trained in his program. A few of his players came from out of state to train with him. According to this coach, his program was so good that some parents were willing to mortgage their homes to pay his coaching fees. A few of the parents, myself included, struggled to pay the $250 a week, plus transportation to and from practice and that was many years ago. Even now, $1,000 per month is a lot of money for athletic coaching for a young child. Coach Cash, as I will call him here, never let a week go by without dropping the not so subtle dig, “You want to know why I like to work with white kids?” (As if anyone who did not want to know could prevent him from saying what would come next.) “White parents have a lot of f%#@!ing money.” “They will pay anything to make sure their kids get the best.” Where was Suze 10

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Orman when you needed her? She would have drop kicked anyone, especially a single woman, who would mortgage her home to put an 8-year-old into a sports program. The same coach wanted to move some of his assistant coaches into the second floor apartment of my house, in exchange for coaching fees. He said these assistant coaches, who were very young adults themselves, would be able to monitor Sean, coach him daily, and all kinds of other fantastical promises. What I didn’t know was that the coach was, allegedly, interested in keeping an eye on me! I found that out years later from another coach. I know, I hear you asking yourself, “Was she dumb enough to let the coaches move in? Did she really mortgage her house?” Well, to be honest I thought about it. I even showed the men the apartment and they loved it, but as they walked through, I had visions of wild parties, naked women, drinking and lots of unwanted traffic running through my house.

Before making a decision, I asked a male friend of mine to pose as a concerned brother/father figure and give the coach a call to see how Sean was doing in the program and discuss the rental arrangement for the junior coaches. When my friend called, the coach got angry and yelled at him, “I don’t have to talk to you about anything, I don’t care who you are! If she doesn’t like what I’m doing then she can find another coach.” That afternoon, he dropped Sean home from practice and told me to never bring him back.

Sean was devastated. This little boy had to see adults that he looked up to engage in unwarranted revenge and retaliation at a very early age. I was shocked, hurt, and angry, and I felt guilty. I wanted the best for my son, but this was a wakeup call. The truth was I could not afford this guy, this coach. I felt inadequate as a single woman who was unable to provide everything I thought my son deserved. I felt helpless in the midst of the men I was dealing with. I was angry with my friend, who I asked to help me out, and with the coach for throwing my son out of the sports program. I was angry with my son’s father for not being accessible or involved, for not taking an active role in all of this, and for not helping me pay for the programs. I was just angry and, quite frankly at the time, I wanted to quit. 11

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I learned a necessary lesson about faith from that situation. I needed to trust God and know that whatever we needed, if it was for us, no man could stop it and no weapon formed against us would prosper. I encouraged Sean to be strong and not to worry. I promised him we would be fine, that we would find another program, and that nothing and no one could stop him from playing tennis as long as he wanted to play. That night I started looking for a new coach, and I looked and I looked until we found the perfect program, one that fit our budget and our needs.

Okay, so here are the rules mothers: 1. Don’t date the coach! 2. Don’t involve the coach in your personal business. 3. Leave the guys in the park alone. If you do date anyone, to the extent you can, keep your relationship out of the park. 4. Keep conversations limited to the game, your son, or mindless small talk like sports, gardening or something like that. Network always, but carefully, and watch your back; not everyone has your best interests at heart. Ask questions of the coaches and other parents. You want to know what opportunities exist for the players so that your child is not left out. Be careful not to let the coach get the feeling that you are interested in him, or in doing something unethical in order to get information or special treatment. Be strategic, don’t bat your eyes or fling your hair. In other words don’t flirt. Stay focused on the outcome you are seeking, be professional and do your own research. Show up on occasion with “Bubba,” or a big, mean-looking male friend or relative who people can easily mistake for your husband or 12

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boyfriend. Let them assume that if they mess with you, they will make Bubba mad, and they would not want to make Bubba mad!

Point #1 is so important that I am going to repeat it once more. Don’t date the coach! I understand there are exceptions to every rule, but are you willing to risk your son’s experience to find out if the man you have your eyes on is the exception? Some of you are, so for you I have one recommendation, or a plea…WAIT! About every two to four years your son’s game will improve, or he may change sports; in either case, he will outgrow his coach. Consequently, every two to four years you should consider changing coaches. That said, if you think a coach is so great that you just have to go out with him, check him out AFTER your son moves on to a new coach. In the meantime, focus on your son’s game, not yours.



Cathleen Williams is an attorney and registered nurse with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing from the University of Delaware, a Doctor of Jurisprudence from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, and a Masters in Health Law from Seton Hall University. Cathleen has been mentored by and shared the stage with motivational speaker Les Brown, and has also been coached by author Barbara De Angelis, billionaire Bill Bartmann, publisher and author John Mason, language and media expert Joel Roberts, writer and author Victoria Rowan and many others.

Ms. Williams is a very unique and engaging public speaker, connecting with audiences from the backyard to the boardroom, young children to senior citizens, men and women. Her ability to speak from her heart with compassion and poise enables her to connect to the souls of everyone who hears her speak. Cathleen trains professionals and caretakers in the areas of law, healthcare, nursing, home health, HIV/AIDS, elder care, hospice; and she is also a development, personal development, education, parenting, diversity, relationships coach.

Cathleen is CEO and Executive Producer of I'm Just Saying Talk Show which airs weekly in New York City on Time Warner Cable, and an online magazine by the same name. Ms. Williams works passionately on behalf of men's issues, and has dedicated her television show to men and improving high school graduation rates of young black men in the United States. She is the New York State Regional Cocoordinator for International Men's Day, November 19, 2010 and she is the co-chairperson of the 2010 Fatherhood Forum at the Greater Allen A.M. E. Cathedral in New York City.

Ms. Williams is available for conferences, trainings and other public speaking engagements. She can be reached at cathleen@cathleenwilliams.com.

- coming soon -


Single Mother The New Father is a series of self help/how to books filled with stories of success, failure and practical support for single mothers. Her books provide an inside look into the single mother experience for the responsible fathers who need to understand from a single mother’s perspective how much their presence is needed in the lives of their children.

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