In 1996, while Pittsburgh Steelers back-up quarterback Charlie Batch was attending college at Eastern Michigan State University, his sister was murdered in a drive-by shooting in Homestead. While Batch’s experience unfortunately mirrors that of many Pittsburgh area youth who have lost loved ones to gun violence, many youth do not have a parental support system to overcome these tragedies.
|JEROME BETTIS AND MOTHER, GLADYS BETTIS
At the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh 2012 State of Black Pittsburgh on Nov. 10, Batch joined teammate Ryan Mundy and retired Pittsburgh Steeler Jerome Bettis to talk about how their parents aided them in overcoming obstacles and reaching their dreams. While their challenges growing up differed, each athlete said education was the foundation of their success.
“If you wanted to participate in sports, you had to handle what you needed to do in the classroom,” said Batch who was joined by his mother, Lynn Settles.
|CHARLIE BATCH AND MOTHER, LYNN SETTLES (Photos by J.L. Martello)
Today, Batch works to inspire local youth by combining sports and education in an effort to reduce tensions between rivaling neighborhoods. Dedicated to the memory of his sister, the Best of Batch Foundation, based in Homestead, aims to provide financially challenged youth and their families with the purpose, desire, and resources to give their best efforts in all they do throughout their lives.
“One of the things I did in our community was to find a way to draw kids in. We’re an educational organization, but we use sports to draw kids in,” Batch said. “I’m a big believer that sports bring communities together.”
While the three athletes promoted the importance of sports in their success, they reminded youth in the audience that many student-athletes never play professionally. They also explained how fleeting a career in professional sports could be.
“School was the central focus in our life. As a result of that, when I went to high school, I was in the National Honor Society, top of my class,” said Bettis, who was joined by his mother, Gladys Bettis. “People say if you don’t play football you still have your education. But if you do play football, you still need your education.”
Both Bettis and Batch’s mothers did not originally want their sons to play football. Since Bettis struggled with asthma, his mother was worried about the impact football would have on his health and it was ultimately Bettis’ father who convinced her to let him play.
“I watched everything (my father) did; I emulated everything he did. Because he was a very great man, I wanted to be that way,” Bettis said. “If that parenting structure isn’t in place, the child loses out.”
Mundy echoed the importance of having strong parental figures. He said he realized the work his parents had done to prepare him to overcome any obstacle when he was forced to transfer from Michigan State to West Virginia University to finish his college football career.
“Anything that needed to be done for me to accomplish my dreams, my dad was willing to sacrifice his time,” said Mundy who was joined by both his mother, Nancy Mundy and father, Gregory Mundy. “You have to be prepared. My mother and father, they prepared me.”
In light of the event’s theme, “Raising Champions,” the athlete’s parents also presented words of wisdom to the parents in the audience.
“This is to the parents. Always be a part of your child’s life,” said Settles. “Go to the schools and know what’s going on in the schools.”