Sunday, June 15, 2014

If Parenting Was a Sport, My Dad Would Be Coach of the Year, Every Year.

In the grand lottery of life, I lucked into the best parents that a child can wish for. And, on this Father's Day, I feel it's only right to express how much I appreciate everything that my dad, in particular, has done to make me the person, and, most importantly- the parent- that I am today; he deserves the accolades, and the credit.

You see, my dad was the ultimate coach. He coached basketball, he coached baseball, and he coached football, but, if you asked him, he coached kids. The sport was important, the fundamentals, the sportsmanship, the dedication, the integrity needed to produce a quality athlete-these things were valuable and necessary, but; the kids were what really mattered.

To this day, when my dad is out and about in Mayberry or, in towns both near and far, a former player will approach him to express gratitude for his leadership. That person will often share stories about how he (or lately, she*) didn't have a lot of confidence in himself as a kid, and about how my dad shored up that confidence, how he helped him to grow into himself as athlete, and, as a person.

My dad was a stern coach. He was a tough task-master and an unforgiving perfectionist. He expected the best from his players and pushed them to find it within themselves. He helped them to recognize the best in themselves and he fostered pride in them. He instilled in each of them a love of their chosen sport, pride in triumph, and humility in defeat. And his athletes remember him for it.

As a parent, my dad utilized many of his coaching skills in order to shape and mold his daughters into productive, successful, community-minded adults who are capable of meeting the challenges of adulthood. He taught us about perseverance, cooperation, teamwork, patience, the proper application of aggressiveness, when to apologize, when to stand our ground, and compassion for others.

When we were growing up, my sisters and I spent too many hours to calculate sitting in bleachers in smelly gyms, in the spring sunshine or in the brisk autumn air, watching my dad's boys do their thing. We tagged along on trips to out-of-town games and we entertained ourselves on the sidelines of practices too numerous to count. These experiences prepared us quite well for the challenges of parenting our own sports-minded offspring and, there is a beautiful symmetry in that.

As a parent, I understand the challenges that everyday life can present. I recognize the sacrifices that my dad made for us and I make similar sacrifices for my children because I have seen how it is done and because my dad taught me that it is the right thing to do.

I listen to my children. I encourage them to be themselves and to follow their hearts. I am their biggest fan and supporter of their dreams. I know that they can do anything they try and be anything they want. My Dad did this for me, so it now comes naturally to me as a parent.

Most importantly, I have fun with my children. I genuinely enjoy them and their activities. I value the humor that they bring to my life and I make it a priority to involve myself in what makes them happy, and, I do this because it's what I know. It's what I had modeled for me as I grew up, and that's important. My parenting skills were literally coached into me.

I will always be grateful to my Dad for his dedication to his family; in a world where too many dads walk away from the responsibility of family, it is a blessing to have been raised by a man who put his family first. Always.

So, happy Father's Day, Dad.

Thank you for coaching us for all these years.

* Dad came out of retirement to coach my niece's middle school basketball team. He quickly discovered that coaching girls is a challenge unto itself, but he stuck it our until my niece gave up basketball to barrel race. Yet another reason that he qualifies as Coach of the Year.

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