Mr. David King: If we can have that kind of understanding, that the experiences that we're having in the sporting world, somehow prepare us for a life situation we're gonna have over here. That's what we're about. We're not about the winning and we have to change the culture or at least, go against the current culture of the day.
End of Teaser
John Fuller: That's David King, speaking about the need to kind of reframe how we view youth sports and their real purpose in life. He's back with us again today and also joining us once more, Margot Starbuck. They're gonna be talking about youth sports on today's "Focus on the Family" with your host, Jim Daly. Thanks for joining us. I'm John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, there was a lot of energy in the room yesterday, wasn't there?
John: There was, yeah.
Jim: And this is because if you have children of any age practically, maybe if they're out of college, it's not as critical (Chuckling), but we are invested as a culture when it comes to sports and our children and what we do. And I think a lot of those realities came out last time. We're gonna talk more about the myths that are explained in David and Margot's book, Overplayed today and if you're a parent, you're gonna appreciate this and I am hopeful it puts the tools in your hands to be able to do a better job parenting your young athletes.
John: Yeah, go ahead and stop by www.focusonthefamily.com/radioto get the download of our program yesterday. It is exceptional and has so many different things in there to help in that tool box. David and Margot both played sports. They've coached them and their kids have participated in them. Margot, I think yours are still participating and together, as you said, Jim, they've authored this book, Overplayed.
Jim: Welcome back to "Focus on the Family."
Mr. David King and Ms. Margot Starbuck: Thank you.
Jim: One of the myths you address in your book is that we owe it to our children. And especially if you played sports, you do kinda feel, you know, okay, I owe 'em every opportunity or I owe her every opportunity. You did women's basketball.
Jim: So (Laughing), jump in here.
Margot: No, that idea, I owe my child everything, I'm thinking of my granddad growing up in the Depression, where you know, his aunt would go without eating a pork chop, so that he could have one. You know, maybe those adults owed our children something. My kids and most of the kids I know are privileged. They have so much. I don't think I owe them everything. I think I'm a better parent if I don't give them everything. So, I'd love to dispel that idea that we owe them something.
And what Dave and I are encouraging parents to do is, to know your child. And that's what I love, when you noticed that, you know, T-ball, baseball might not be your son's thing, you know, maybe art is that child's thing. Maybe it's something else and that's just good parenting when you can see who your child is and it might not be [an] athlete.
David: I don't see anything wrong with giving them an opportunity. You want to give your kids opportunities. The question is, do I owe it to them? It's a very fine line between giving them the opportunity to go after their dream, to involve themselves, to learn from all the good that happens in sports. Nothin' wrong with giving them that opportunity, but doing it because I owe it to them to keep up with the Joneses, so to speak, that's where it comes to my mind, a little bit off of the balance.
John: Well, that's that peer pressure that we parents face, right? I mean, okay, Jim, if you and I are talking and your son is playing football and my son, to use your illustration, Margot, is good at art, that doesn't work so well in dad groups as we're talking about accomplishments, you know. Well, yeah, my kid had three touchdowns. Oh, my son drew a nice picture. You know (Laughter), you know what I'm saying? The culture doesn't support that?
Jim: So, how do you as a parent, manage that? What do you do?
David:; Well, one of the things that I would suggest and this goes back maybe to the congregational piece would be, I really encourage congregations to form these support groups among parents who have kids at this age, both in the arts and music, just to sit down and talk. Because the one thing starting all the way back from the producer, I'm sorry, I forgot her name, who had the 10-month-old. She doesn't know what to do, but if she has a question about it, she should be able to talk to other people around her. So, if you can sit down. If we can sit down in groups of parents and actually honestly say, "You know, I don't know what to do because my son is an artist and not a sports person."
David: "How do we do that?" And provide that safe environment for everybody to own who they are and who their kids are, rather than just taking on this role that we have in our society that we're gonna talk about my son or daughter when they're really good around the water cooler at work and otherwise, we won't.
Jim: Margot, you touched on this a second ago, but you began to weave that family values kind of perspective in with sports. Let's drill into that a little bit, because as Christians, you know, we want our kids, our young people to come out of these experiences with greater integrity, to be honest, to manage disappointment well. Sometimes it doesn't mix that well, 'cause the other parent sittin' next to you, "Hey, I want to win the game. Your kid dropped the ball." You know, back off, guy. I mean, that happens.
Margot: Yeah and I want to say, you know, with John's example, as well, my responsibility isn't to other parents, right? My responsibility is to my child. And I'm thinking of my daughter's one bad high school basketball season and I could not have been more proud. She was mostly benched, but when the starters came in, she was hustling to bring each one of them water. And that's the most successful sports season that one of my children has had, because those are the values that I want her to be embodying. And yeah, maybe they never won.
Jim: But Margot, come on. That competitive parent is hearing that going, "Oh, right. Goody two shoes." (Laughter)
Jim: I'm sorry, but I mean, really? You were happy she was on the bench?
Margot: You're exactly right.
Jim: Come on!
Margot: I understand that not every parent is going to buy into this, but there's a lot of parents that Dave and I are finding are waking up to say, "Oh, maybe it is okay that this is what my family is about."
Jim: Dave, let me ask you this though, the intensity of sporting today, I see it. You know, when I played football, I mean, we were rag tag. We didn't have all the latest equipment, the wrist stuff, the hand stuff, the gloves. I mean, we just kinda got out there. They issued some equipment. We put it on and we played. Today they all look like they're pro-players. And everybody wants to look the part. And that intensity almost follows with the professional look, doesn't it?
David: Oh, absolutely and unfortunately, as I said from the very beginning, we have made this an adult event and we've put all that stuff on and the first thing that it does is, it also clouds our ability to really understand how good our children are. They look the part, so therefore, we think they're gonna be in that three percent that start playing in college and they really aren't.
Jim: Three percent, you just threw that out there, but you gotta catch that. Only three percent of high school athletes will make it.
David: Play in college at any level--
Jim: And then, how many—
David: --Division One, Two.
Jim: --of those actually go on to play the pro's?
David: Only about one percent.
Jim: Of that three percent.
David: -- yeah, go on.
Jim: It's a small number.
David: It is a very small number, which again, doesn't mean you shouldn't play the sport, but you should have the perspective of what you're really trying to do it for. And so, if we can go back to this and it's talking about instilling the values, I understand how difficult it is to sit there when the mom and dad are over beside you are just screaming and yelling and want to win and you have a different value. And I don't know if you can come up with it, Margot, but you've told a very fascinating story that didn't get into our book 'cause it happened afterwards.
Margot: My soccer player was benched by his parents because of his grades. (Laughter) And it was a big game for the team. His English teacher came running over, waving a progress report that she had just printed out. "He can play; he can play." And I had to say in front of--
Jim: This is at the game?
Margot: --at the same, in front of the parents, the coach, the players, the teacher, "I don't know what he told you, but yours isn't the only class in which he's, you know, failing and he's not going to play." Like the teacher was heartbroken, but I love it, 'cause after the game, she did give him a talking to. (Laughter) But that was a hard decision as a mom--
David: Oh, unbelievable.
Jim: Oh, the pressure for you had to—
Margot: --to sit him down.
Jim: --be enormous. Everybody's lookin' at you. You got the evil eye from the coach, I'm sure.
John: How did you withstand the pressure from your child on that?
Margot: Oh, he knew. He knew that he had sort of not described the situation—
John: He played the system.
Margot: --to his teacher as he should have (Laughter)
David: Well, and that would also go back to the preparation, 'cause I'm sure that Margot has had some of these conversations with them. Here's why we're doing it. Here's the values that—
Margot: He knew.
David: --we can instill in what's going on and whether you set those parameters to say, this is a privilege to play. You're gonna have to keep up all of your chores. You're gonna have to keep up your academics. You're gonna have to do everything else. Those are conversations that I'm sure Margot has had with her soccer player and so, you prepare them for that. Oh, they're disappointed, trust me.
Jim: And David, this again points to the culture at large, is that we don't understand the benefit of failure.
Jim: We only think in terms of success, but failure brings a lot of good character building to your child.
David: Let me tell you a quick story, which I just find fascinating and that is, I was working with a group of young people at a convention one time and I talked about disappointments and how to handle disappointments and failures. And so, I put together scenarios and it was a basketball game and you were down by one and they called travelling. And the other team got the ball, threw it in and threw a "Hail Mary," whatever and scored and you lost and they went on to the state championship and what are your feelings?
And so, these young people started talking about feelings, you know, frustration, life's not fair, anger, you know, mad at the referee, mad at this and all that. I said, "Okay, now, can you think about something down the road in your life that might be similar?" And several people had answers and one young man in the front row raised his hand and he said, "Miscarriage." And I was stunned.
David: But he and his family somewhere, I never talked to him afterward, somewhere in his family he had a situation that was close to somebody throwing in a half-court shot to win the state championship and make you lose. And if we can make that kind of comparison, I'm not trying to make sports to miscarriages, please understand me, but if we can have that kind of understanding, that the experiences that we're having in the sporting world somehow prepare us for a life situation we're gonna have over here, that's what we're about. We're not about the winning and we have to change the culture or at least, go against the current culture of the day.
John: Well, you can hear more from David and Margot from a previous conversation. We'll have that on CD, along with today's at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio. You can also get it as a download or call us and we can tell you more and also tell you about their book, Overplayed: A Parent's Guide to Sanity in the World of Youth Sports. That's 1-800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
Jim: Margot, let me ask you, when it comes to the pressure, you have a 7-, 8-year-old, they may not have a lot of interest, but you as the adult, you're lookin' down line. They have enough interest that you know if they start now, they'll have the skill-set to play junior high, high school. And yet, they're not really wantin' to play. How do you manage that? And then, talk about the other end of that continuum. Now they are in 8-th grade.
I've got that situation, Troy. He did not play Little League. He all of a sudden said, "I want to try baseball." And he went out and he actually did really well, hit about 300. And listen to me. (Laughter) He played third base, but he only played maybe three or four innings a game. He didn't play the full game, 'cause there were other players that had played three or four years before. And this team kinda had held together, so he was the new kid.
All that stuff and I'm sittin' there as the parent thinking, "Oh, if I would've started him at 7, 8, that might've worked better. And now he wants to play in eighth grade, but he's only got one year under his belt. So, what do you say?
Margot: I have some really good news for you. Studies have shown there's not a correlation between a child's athletic development ability before age 12 and after age 12.
Margot: And it's really counterintuitive. And so, what that means is, kids who really shined as a[n] 8-year-old are getting passed by, by other players who are developing a little bit later. And in my experience as a parent, I had a 2-year-old, when he was 3, 4, he was magic with any ball that he touched. And he was the star in all of his sports when he was 7, 8, 9.
And so, I see a certain future for him and he gets to a certain age and it shifts. He did find one sport that he's, you know, sort of enjoying and pursuing, but parents can't hold onto that too tightly. And I hope you hear it as good news and not bad news--
Jim: Yeah, no, I do--
Jim: --and that's a good thing. So, don't overinvest when they're young.
Margot: Yeah, I know.
Jim: And meaning you're gonna be a pro (Chuckling) and you're gonna play college.
David: No, absolutely and I think one of the interesting things about it and I want to make sure that we understand that the study that she referred to is that, there is some correlation, but not a lot of correlation. And so, the message in that study is, just because they are really good as a 5-year-old or as a 12-year-old, doesn't automatically mean they're gonna be the quarterback on the high school varsity. It doesn't mean you should stop letting them play, but that's what we put our minds into. And I've coached so many junior high kids who got passed by the other people who came on afterwards--
David: --and our first mind is, they're really good as a 3-year-old, as a 5-year-old. They're a natural with the ball, etc. So no coach, no college coach has ever recruited a kid because they're U-10 soccer team won the national championship, okay? It's based upon later on in life.
Jim: And you know, one of the things, too, it's a great opportunity to prepare your young ones for that environment. I had one that you know, he wanted to try out for basketball. Forty kids showed up. There were gonna be 12 positions and he had not played YMCA basketball. He did a little bit in the driveway with our hoop, but that was it.
So, before I dropped him off, I said, "Now you know, some of these kids have been playin' a while so, just go out and give your best and then we'll see where it goes." So, I pick him up the first night. He's beaming, 'cause he got through the first cut, like 15 of the kids were gone and he [says], "Dad, you know, I made it." "That's great." And he goes, "But there's another cut tomorrow night. They're gonna get down to 12."
And sure enough, I picked him up that night. He wasn't beamin' quite as bright. (Laughter) And he got into the car. So, I'm thinkin', what do I say?" And he gets in the car and I just said, "How'd it go?" And he said, "I didn't make it." And I said, "How are you feelin' about that?" And he goes, "Actually pretty good. You know, the fact that I haven't played a lot and I got this far, I'm doing okay with it." And I said, "Okay, good. Now we can work on it and next year you can try again." But you gotta find those opportunities to build 'em up, right?
David: Well, one of the keys that I would say is, the question that you asked your son. "How are you feeling about that?" Because most times parents will say, "Who's that coach? What do they know about it? I've seen that other kid play. How did he make it?" And they just go on and on, on this rant. And you were more concerned about how he was feeling about the situation.
Now the next question would be, can you find him another opportunity? That's the one problem I have with the current culture of the youth sports. It's a pyramid system where we keep selecting. Everybody starts playing at the rec level and all of that and then we start finding the travel teams and we gotta figure out whether Colorado Springs can beat Fort Collins in 9-year-old basketball or soccer (Laughter) or ice hockey.
Jim: It's vital we find that out.
David: Right, it's important. It's important to the future of the world or something in Colorado. So, you know, we go ahead and do that, but what happens is, if you're not selected, what do you say? I'm done; I quit. And that's why they're quitting, so we have this pyramid system that's being developed and we don't have enough programs out there that will let your son go play somethin' else.
Jim: Well, and the other thing at that age, rejection comes and it feels like tons of weight, not ounces. We know as adults that, that pimple on your face is not gonna destroy your life. (Laughter) But at that age, it's big. These are disappointments, setbacks that sometimes they're just not mature enough to manage in the larger context.
David: Yeah, I would also say that, don't take it too far in that conversation and make it this philosophical—
David: --tirade for about a half an hour on what you can learn from this whole experience and everything else. But you're absolutely right. I think it's the time and at that time, I'd just also say, he doesn't want to hear a lot of your failure stories either--
Jim: (Laughing) Yeah, right. (Laughter)
David: --at that point. But you raised a very good point in just saying, you have to at least identify as how painful that is. And your question about how do you feel and then that really released him, because he could recognize that you weren't disappointed. If you showed disappointment, now he's got a real problem in knowing how to handle it. So, I commend you for the question—
Jim: Well, no—
David: --that you—
Jim: --and it's—
Margot: Well done.
David: --that you asked.
Jim: --well, no, those things are good things to remember.
Jim: Absolutely. You talk in the book, Overplayed how fear and not love can drive our choices as parents. Talk about that, because fear and love, I mean, this gets down to the core of our spiritual care during our commitment to Christ.
Margot: I think we heard that, you know, this pressure to start our kids really young. It's a fear of missing out. And we're just always wanting to invite parents to look at who your child is and be driven by love and not fear. And love means, we're gonna be making different choices than some other parents.
David: Yeah, I would say, one of you talked about the culture being different. I think that's where the real crux of the issue comes, is the fact that not only has the pressure come on children to be good in the sports, we as parents feel the pressure that we're not being good parents if our kid wasn't the starter.
And so, when you start to do that, now that's the fear. The fear is that if my son or daughter isn't successful, it's somehow a reflection of my parenting skills, whether it be that I didn't give 'em the opportunity, I didn't push 'em hard enough, I didn't do all of that. So, the fear is actually personal in my mind. A lot of this is the fear of the parents having kids who weren't successful in sports and the love comes through to say, "No, you need to focus on who your son or daughter is as a whole person and don't base it just upon the sport."
Jim: Well, and I think the difficulty we have as Christian sporting families is, that we don't want to make mistakes. I mean, we're trying hard to teach our kids fundamentally spiritual values that will last them a lifetime. On top of that foundation, we're building in hopefully, good academic disciplines that they can learn the things they need to learn.
On top of that, we're using sports to hopefully, teach them character and success and failure, all those things. But we can get so intentional about it that we get too, I don't know, wrapped up in it, as opposed to just letting it happen naturally.
Margot: And I want to jump in and say, as a Christian sporting family, I think any parent wants to do what's best for their child, but as a Christian, I'm also concerned with what's best for other children. And so, we haven't touched on this yet, there are kids on my children's teams who maybe can't afford $125 for the warm-up outfit. Or there's a kid in my neighborhood who really should be playing, but his parents are working a couple of jobs and they can't get him there.
So, I would love for Christian families, yes bless your child, but be looking a little further. Have some peripheral vision to see kids who, you know, might do great if we could help them have some of these opportunities and excel. It's not about just my child. It's about other kids, as well.
Jim: And that's a great idea. If you see that, maybe that's something you or maybe a couple of parents could participate in, take care of the equipment cost or the registration fee.
Margot: Do it privately with the coach.
Jim: Yeah, right.
John: That's a great ministry idea.
Jim: Do it behind, yeah, that's a neat thing to do.
David: Well, that's the other thing that we have to recognize is, what we are talking about is very much of a privileged situation, because I've talked to many people in the inner cities at different places. They just simply don't have the opportunities that our children have when we're out there. So, I think that, you're absolutely right to try to build the balance here between, you know, adding the spiritual things.
I would also just make sure that we don't always see sporting events as a[n] evangelical tool, because that's really not why we might say that. We might say, "Well, the reason we're playing is because we want to minister to other people." And it's kinda like, are you sure your kid knows that? That's not really what your kid's about and all of that. And I really like her idea of somehow seeing beyond ourselves in it.
John: You know, there is a similar train of thought to what you're talking about. We haven't touched on this yet, but there is the matter of, is it good stewardship of time and money, because there are so many people that can't afford to do some of the spirts as intensely as we do. Is there a good payoff to this, I mean, a practical tangible takeaway?
Margot: I think you know, my family has chosen not to do some of these really pricey elite opportunities because of what we want to be doing with our time and what we want to be doing with our money. And I'm delighted to say that my children have still been able to play for their schools and have great sporting experiences, but we just really want to empower parents to make some of those harder decisions.
David: And that's one of the things that we've often said to parents is to say, sit down and count the cost. And one of that is time, so how are you most valuable using your time? So, one of the examples that we've used often is the fact that, if you play soccer in the fall, I don't where it's played in Colorado Springs, but back East, it's usually played in the fall, you don't have to play the indoor. If you would take those [opportunities], you're gonna go one night a week to play indoor soccer throughout the winter. Take that one night a week. Take the family. Go together to a soup kitchen and serve or go to the old people's home and play games with 'em or something like that.
That way they see that there [are] other pieces to your life, so sit down ahead of time. You can't do that with a 10-month-old, I understand. But sit down and count that cost as to what it's going to be. There is a return value clearly if you use the sports to develop some of these attributes and then use another experience to do it. So, balance time. I think the problem is when it's all focused on sports or if it was all focused on mission and ministry and outreach, then we don't have that balance. How do we find that balance? We need to back away a little bit from sports and add a few other value-laden activities.
Jim: Yeah. Dave and Margot, one of the things I observed with college athletics particularly, we did a Super Bowl ad with Tim Tebow and we were able to go to the last game of the season. And just at the hotel with the parents and the players, just watching them interact, a lot of the pro scouts came, 'cause it was the end of several of their season.
And you saw different dynamics going on. You could see parents, maybe single-parent moms who were desperate for their young men to make it, 'cause it was going to help pay for some things. Talk about that pressure, getting into college, getting the scholarship, maybe they're comin' from poor districts and the pressure is on those young men and women to do well. Have you experienced that kind of family dynamic?
David: Well, certainly you're talking about Division One level and my experience has been at the Division Three level, so we usually don't have those that are even thinking about or knowing that they're going to go pro.
And I think that creates a real dilemma. What's interesting about that is the fact that one of the studies that recently came out was indicating that professional basketball players, about 40 percent of professional basketball players have a relative who has played their sport at the very highest level, in other words, indicating there is a gene pool there that's connecting them to where they're going to be at. And you know, quite honestly, I don't know exactly how to address the situation when the high level college and the pro sports are actually the ticket out of some of the poverty situations that are there. That's a dilemma that I really haven't personally—
David: --faced, because of where I'm at. And yet, you see that as a guide. And actually, you'll also see that many of those were multi-sport athletes all the way through—
David: --the high school and it's interesting, if one thing you could say is, they didn't have all of those opportunities to play all the stuff we've just been talking about and look where they got.
David: So, if we can—
Jim: And that's sheer ability.
David:--at least look at it and say, this is a great opportunity to invest in my child, but it may not be this result out here. That's not why I'm doing it.
Jim: Well, isn't that the truth? I'm tellin' ya, these last couple of days, as a parent of two boys (Laughing) and John, I know you're feeling it, too--
John: I've been trackin' here, yeah.
Jim: -- and every parent who has children who want to be or who are already in sports, I know this has been helpful. It's been helpful to me and we so appreciate your book, Overplayed and just the time and investment of sharing your hearts, your experiences with us. Thank you so very much for bein' with us.
You know, I hope you can support the ministry and what I want to do is, for a gift of any amount, we'll give you a copy of David and Margot's book, Overplayed, because I know it's the kind of tool or resource that you're gonna need. And I wish a few years ago I would've had this. It would've helped my journey with Trent and Troy and made me, I think, a better parent in some cases (Chuckling). And that's the point, isn't it? And we've been through those experiences, learned from our mistakes and I know that both David and Margot are saying that. You've got plenty of mistakes, but also some great successes.
John: And you can make that donation or order a book or a CD or download of this program when you call 800-232-6459 or online at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Jim: All right, it's your last chance. We're signing off, so both of you, you hit me with that piece of advice for that parent of the eighth grader and the tenth grader. What do I gotta do?
Margot: I want moms and dads to feel that they have the freedom to do what's best for their child. So, I hope parents are gonna live free without a lot of these pressures that are crushing families today.
Jim: Be intentional in that way.
Margot: Uh-hm, absolutely.
David: I really hope that this starts conversations, that this starts discussions, because we have avoided this for so long. It's there. It's the culture. We're sucked into it and we need to find ways to actually honestly look at ourselves and say what's best for our kids and how can I best handle it? If I want nothing else, I want to have parents and churches, congregations, youth pastors starting to openly discuss this, because that's the only way they're gonna find solutions.
Jim: That's a wonderful point. David King and Margot Starbuck, co-authors of the book, Overplayed, this has been a wonderful discussion. Thanks for bein' with us.
Margot: Thanks so much, Jim,
David: Thank you very much for the opportunity.
John: And again, you can get a copy of the book of a download of this program at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, I'm John Fuller, inviting you back on Monday when we'll take a look at kids being a witness for Christ at their public school.
Miss Lexie Peterson: You don't really see people's true colors and their true faith. So, it was a big eye-opener for me to see how many people around me were really Christians and how they were sharing their faith with each other. And it was just like God had rained over the school and in my classroom and He was standing there right with me that day.
End of Excerpt
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Margot StarbuckView Bio
Margot Starbuck is a public speaker and an award-winning author of nine books including Not Who I Imagined, Permission Granted and Unsqueezed. She is also a ghostwriter, an editorial adviser, a writing consultant and a columnist for Today's Christian Woman. Margot is a passionate advocate for supporting impoverished children, disabled people and indigenous leaders of youth development organizations. Learn more about Margot by visiting her website, www.margotstarbuck.com.
David KingView Bio
David King has been the Director of Athletics at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, VA, since 2005, coming to EMU from Lancaster Mennonite School in Lancaster, PA, where he served for 14 years as the athletic director and assistant principal. He began his work in athletics teaching and coaching at Locust Grove Mennonite School (K-8), and then spent 5 years as administrator at Camp Hebron in Pennsylvania before going to Lancaster Mennonite. Dave is co-author of the book Overplayed: A Parent's Guide to Sanity in the World of Youth Sports. He and his wife, Deb, have three grown children and two grandchildren.