SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Throughout the month we have taken a look at how young boys without fathers are at risk.

According to researchers cited in the book, “The Boy Crisis, ” young men without positive male role models have lower self-esteem, lower grades and a lower life expectancy than their peers.

KOLR10 takes a look at how sports of all things can help address these problems, and how coaches can step in to fill an important void.

“All the studies show that people are drawn to role models that look like them,” said Shem Johnson, coach at Central High School. “And so for young men to have a male authority figure in their life is really important.”

Johnson says one of his main goals is to build relationships with young athletes.

“Some of these kids, unfortunately, come from single-parent homes, mom or dad are constantly working, these young men or young women even have to find an outlet somewhere, and whatever sport they get into, we become that surrogate parent,” Johnson said.

Down the road at Parkview High School, teacher and coach Austin Kendrick feels the same way.

“for a lot of kids we are father figures,” Kendrick said.

Both have seen the positive impact a sport can have for a kid with not much else.

“They are excited to get there, because it’s better than going home to an empty house, its better than hanging out on the side of the street with friends they know are questionable, its like hey, I need to be in something that’s positive, it’s hard, some days I hate it, but I know as an individual I need it,” Johnson said.

Dr. Pam Sailors teaches “Sociology of Sport” at Missouri State University. She says research shows youth sports participants score higher on mental health tests, and she says sports can teach valuable life lessons that extend far beyond the field.

“One of the most important is that winning isn’t everything, that we can’t always win,” Sailors said. “So it teaches persistence and resilience, in some ways I think that’s the most positive thing is learning how to deal with failure.”

“Failure happens, but how do you bounce back from it when it occurs, a lot of these young men or young women will be in the classroom and will be failing constantly, for whatever the reason, but those who succeed have figured out how to overcome that,” Johnson said.