Category Archives: Fatherhood

Why I Really Coach

As another season of youth football has come to a close, and it is my son’s last season as he will be entering high school next year, I am faced with the dilemma of, “is this my last season, too or will I coach again next year?”

Many people assume it is my last given my son’s age and I may take a break from it next year, but I don’t really think it is my last for one simple reason – Why I really coach.

Many youth coaches are out there because it is a way to be involved with their own kids.  They find it is a way to build a bond and have something special with their child.  In many cases if they did not step up to coach their might not be a team at all.  Unfortunately, you also see the ones who at the end of a game aren’t as concerned with the final score as they are with their own kid’s statistics.  They coach to insure that their kid is the star and is in every play.

There are also those coaches who do it because it fulfills their competitive needs.  They are former athletes themselves still in great shape, but are too old to be allowed on the field themselves.  They are living vicariously through their players until the Redskins call.  They like the rush they get from winning and the power they feel which is something they don’t get from their jobs.

Then are those who really do have something to share and want to make a difference.  They see coaching as a way to pass along some of their knowledge and help give something back to the community.

So, which one am I?

I definitely have done it to be involved with my kid.  I have done it not to make my kid the star but in one case to prevent that “one dad” from ruining the season for everyone by him making his kid the star at the expense of everyone else.  I do love the thrill of winning but, alas, I have not maintained my athletic physique and if the Redskins were to call me, it would be to be a food taster for Dan Snyder.

I have done it to give something back to the community and make a difference in a kid’s life but I think I am unique in why I think I can or should  do this.  I had a great teacher and coach growing up.   My Dad.

He was my baseball coach all through Little League.   When he passed away several years ago, at his funeral I saw several men who I hadn’t seen since high school or even some since we had played Little League together.  Each one was there because my dad as their Little League coach 30 years earlier had touched their lives in a way they never forgot.  Several of them shared stories about how he had helped them or how as an adult they had remembered something he taught them or said to them that got them through difficult times.  All things that I didn’t know or just took for granted.  When I saw the impact he had on so many young people by just being a dad who was a volunteer baseball coach, I knew I had to follow his example.

This is one of many reasons I am so passionate about what coaches do and say around players and the special treatment gifted athletes are given.  Kids are impressionable and like it or not they do notice.  Winning is important but it is not why kids should be playing and why coaches should be coaching.  It is not the win/loss record that will have a lasting impact.

Do I think any of the kids I have coached will show up at my funeral one day?  I doubt it.  But I would like to think that when one of them comes to a crossroads in their life (i.e. rob the Smoothie King or not?) they will think about something I did or said and make the right choice.

Just like my Dad.

 PS:  I just came across this article from The Washington Post Good Coaches Win in Other Ways”.    Ditto, Bingo, Exactly…..

Side Note:  Jasmina Parazic, who is pictured in the article, coached my daughter this year in Field Hockey.   A great expereince for her and now she is hooked on the sport!

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Old for the Holidays

Thanksgiving has come and gone.  The house was full and the noise was deafening.  Plenty of loud music, television, arguing, laughter and best of all conversation.

All four of my children were home for Thanksgiving.  It was the first time in three months that all six of us had been together.  We only had  one night where it was just the six of us as relatives began arriving during the week.   But as I sat at the dining table that night and looked around, I had that eerily warm feeling.

Yes, I was soaking in the fact that our family was complete and also contemplating that these moments will be fewer and fewer as the years go by, but what really got to me was how old this made me feel.  Me, old…..how could it be?

I was having the thoughts that my parents had, and would creep me out, years ago whenever my brother, sister and I were all home at the same time.   I would catch my mother and father both staring at us and one another, soaking it all in and then getting a little self satisfied smile on their lips.  To be honest it was creepy and well, it made my parents look and seem old. 

I only turned 45 two weeks ago!  How can I feel so old?  I guess I feel old because I see so much of my parents in myself.  It is funny how we view our parents through life.

When you hit your twenties you realize your parents aren’t as old as you thought nor as stupid as you thought.

When your own children are infants you realize how much your parents really care for you even though you may find it hard to believe that anyone could care for another human being as much as you care for your own child.

When your children become teens you reliaze how much your parents reallyknew and how much they really must have trusted you.  (I can’t believe they let me do some of the things they let me do).

But when your children start to leave home, when the family unit becomes dispersed, what do you think of your parents?   You begin to understand they had a choice at that point.  Become old and let life slip away or take on a new spirit that involves putting themselves first.

I feel old.  I see life slipping away.  Another milestone reached, another moment in time that signifies life marches on and we get one step closer to finishing our time and jobs on this earth.  We live, we love, we procreate, we teach, we raise, we release and then we fade away to the end.

I have to shake this.  I am not old and I am not ready to be old.  I need to find what is in life that will help keep me young…….It is not a car or a girlfriend or any other stereo typical mid-life crisis cover up.

I have until Christmas.

Where Were You When He Was Making His Choices?

I have received several comments as to my posts on Pat Lazear and the “Smoothie King Incident.”  Some printable, most not – all from Whitman “Faithful”.  One in particular that I received was from a young man who identified himself only as a “current whitman student”.  I have written the post below in response to his comment but it really is for everyone.  

current whitman student:

I appreciate your comments regarding this entirely regrettable situation which several of your former classmates/ team mates were involved. It is clear that Robert Warren had a troubled past and even his behavior at Whitman was not exemplary.

I don’t believe anyone is excusing Mr. Warren for his involvement in the Smoothie King robbery or that Pat Lazear had some magical power over Mr. Warren that forced to commit this crime.

But the real point that is being missed by so many people is that Pat Lazear made a choice to be involved with people like Mr. Warren and commit acts like the Smoothie King robbery.  Where were his parents, his coaches or his teachers to steer him clear of this kind of stuff?

Pat Lazear is a gifted athlete with an unlimited potential ahead of him.  He had his choice of colleges to attend, at no cost, and the opportunity to get one of the best educations in the country.  If athletics did not lead to a career after college for him he would have had the opportunity to learn from some of the brightest minds in the world any subject he chose.  And he could have used that knowledge along with the potential public notoriety he would have gained from playing sports in college to work anywhere he wanted.  The golden path lay before him.  He knew it.  His parents knew it.  His coaches knew it.  His teachers knew it.  Even his friends, like you, knew it.

But he was allowed to throw it all away because nobody ever sat him down and told him, “No.”  And why would they?  He was  this great athlete who if allowed to play in that next game, or wrestle that next match would bring glory and honor to his family, his team, his school.  His parents wouldn’t have to pay for college, his coach might win a state championship and get a better spot somewhere else, and people associated with Whitman could walk around saying they knew Pat when he tackled 3 guys by himself.

And no one can say there were no warning signs.  He was convicted of using a stolen credit card only 17 months before the Smoothie King incident.    He served 90 days court supervised probation for it.  This is not some little transgression.  One of the many Whitman “Faithful” who have written to me about Mr. Warren said that he, too, was convicted of using a stolen credit card.  I am assuming they committed that crime together?  Or maybe it is a coincidence.  Either way, if my kid was caught with another kid committing a crime, it is the last time my kid would be seen with that kid.  Especially a kid who has a checkered past like Mr. Warren.

If Mr. Warren’s behavior at wrestling matches was as bad as you say, how could the coaches not steer Pat away from him?  I know that some people believe that too many parents look to the schools to raise their kids.  And I am not advocating this.  What I am saying is that when a teacher or coach has the rare opportunity to have a student athlete like Pat Lazear, they should help him to see right from wrong, help keep bad influences away that might side track him.  Keep him focused on what he needs to do, and not do, to succeed.  Be an example, be a mentor, be an educator.  Don’t just turn the other way when they do something wrong or begin hanging out with the wrong crowd because it might upset your star and you won’t be able to ride the gravy train.  Do what is right for him.

I am glad so many people support Pat.  He is going to need it.  But where was everyone when he was making these choices?

Two American Icons Call It Quits

It is a truly sad day in our country.  I can hardly bear to write about it.  First Bob Barker announces his retirement and then I see that the original manufacturerer of Pink Flamingos is closing down their factory.

For 50 years both Bob and the Pink Flamingo have entertained us and helped to define Americans.  Bob with his “Better than You” charm first hosting “Truth or Consequences” and later on “The Price is Right” showing the world just how low people would stoop for free prizes.  And Pink Flamingos standing guard in front of numerous low rent homes and trailers showing us exactly where the people who go on these game shows lived.

Seriously, I love Bob Barker.  At 82 years old he still is clearly active and only has the occasional mental slip.  What is really great about him is underneath that silver fox is the libido of a 16 year old.  We have all heard the stories of his escapades with Janice and just look at his “Barker’s Beauties”.   They are nothing more than the bait to get him out on the stage everyday.

Bob said about his retirement,

“He would take on a movie role if the right one came along, but filmmakers, take note: “I refuse to do nude scenes. These Hollywood producers want to capitalize on my obvious sexuality, but I don’t want to be just another beautiful body.”

You go Bob, you silver haired devil you.  I would love to see Bob in another movie.  Who can forget his classic fight scene with Adam Sandler in “Happy Gilmore”

But Bob holds a another special place for me.  For the past three summers when my kids have been out of school, we would all watch “The Price is Right” together at 11 a.m.  It sounds goofy, but all four of my kids enjoyed it, I enjoyed it and 11 a.m. was a good time because everyone was finally up and we would all have lunch (or breakfast) together while watching Bob.  It was the one time during the day in the hectic life of my children and myself when we all took a break, sat down and enjoyed something together.

I am going to miss these moments as they become fewer and fewer in life.  “The Price is Right” just won’t be the same without Bob.  Trailer Parks won’t be the same without Pink Flamingos.  My summer days at 11 a.m. won’t be the same either.

Teen Suicide

I received a disturbing note from an old friend today.  The child of a mutual friend of ours had attempted suicide.  I don’t have a lot of details other than the child is recovering from this unfortunate act and the family is still trying to get a full understanding on the reason.

The news of anyone trying to commit suicide, especially a child,  is disturbing enough.  But see, this was the third young person I knew of who had attempted suicide in as many weeks.  Unfortunately, the other two were “successful” in their attempts..

It is so saddening to think what could have possible been going through these kids head to want to give it all up.  In a way, I can empathize with them.  I was diagnosed as being clinically depressed 18 months ago.

My depression had been going on long before I was diagnosed and the damage it caused in my personal and professional life was/is significant.  But that is all for another time.  What I want to convey here is how desperate these teens must have felt that they would take their own lives.

Even though I suffer from depression, any thoughts of suicide that I have had have been just that, thoughts.  I have never had the urge to act on it even though I have thought of several ways to do it.  There are times when life becomes so unbearable that I wish I could just die.  But I would never do it via suicide.

All I can think about with these teenagers is that their choice to commit suicide and to follow through with it could have been stopped if they were more mature.  I am NOT suggesting they were childish in their behavior, but rather that they did not possess the life experiences and maturity that comes with age to think about the full consequences of their actions.  I know that this is a very large part of what stops me when I get those thoughts.

What is it that would drive a child to have grown up fears, and pressures which they can not handle? 

Are we putting too much pressure on kids to grow up too soon?  With the things on the Internet like YouTube and various explicit websites and the type of television programming out there, are we exposing our kids to too many adult type issues which can only be fully understood or appreciated with age? Is this part of the cause of teen suicide?

I am not blaming the Internet or YouTube or television.  I am questioning the content that we allow our children to access.  It is not the technology , it is the message that I wonder which might be too much for a young developing mind to handle.

I don’t know.  I don’t have the answer.  I wish I did.

The “Bricks” Are What Matter

The following was written a week before I started this blog. It is an excerpt from an email that I sent one night to a group of old friends.   I speak to my daughter, ok it is more like IM with my daughter quite often and I am amazed at how grown up she is .  I have found myself going back and needing to read this to remind myself that yes, she is grown up but that is a good thing, and that no matter how grown up she gets, she will always be my little girl made up of the bricks that we made together.

I am sure many of you have come to realize over the years as I have, it is not the entire “house” that matters.  It is the individual “bricks of life” that collectively build the “house” that matter.

I guess I am getting somewhat sentimental this evening because in 5 hours my wife and I and our eldest daughter will be getting in our van and driving 8 hours to the South to drop her off at school.  And while this is not our first child we will be taking to school, I still have this sense of loss mixed with joy that I have never felt before.  It could be that she is the oldest girl. Or it could be that she will be so far away and we know we won’t see her for at least 3 months.  Maybe I am just realizing that with her and her older brother gone we have lost our younger children’s chauffeurs and our own personal errand runners.

When her brother left last year, it was a momentous occasion but it didn’t have this feel.  It might have been because his school is in Baltimore and less than an hour away.  Or it may have been almost a let down given that he was a 15 year cancer survivor and when your child is stricken with an illness like that you start to think about all the different milestones they may not reach. Then as they beat the disease and start to reach each milestone like first grade, first hit in baseball, first date, etc. they’re great but, well, they’re just events in life that could never live up the expectations or significance you have put on them.

But this with my daughter leaving feels different.  She had always been in her brother’s shadow having to spend most of her second year with her two grandmothers’ while we cared for him.  Then later he was this child that no matter how much we tried to down play it for our own sanity and the sake of our other children was treated like a “miracle” kid by teachers and others.  But she persevered and carved out her own niche as a leader in school, an accomplished dancer and twirler and the type of person who just made everyone feel comfortable and wanted to be around. All the while not fighting being “Ben’s little sister” but being proud of it and making a name for herself.

So what is it that feels wrong?  When your children reach high school you know that you will lose some touch with them.  They become more independent and you see less and less of them as their social calendars fill up and their time at the dinner table decreases.  As independent as she may have become over the past three years, I realize that this move to South Carolina is the next step in her growing up, making a name for herself and conquering a new frontier.  When I think of it in these terms I am touched with a sense of pride and a pang of sorrow, because I realize that this is what we as parents have worked so hard to prepare our kids to do.  So what I must be feeling is not a sense of loss of my daughter but a sense of loss of my role as a parent.

This is all a good test for me because we have two younger ones who will be in middle school this year and one day leaving home.  We always called our kids “the two older ones and the two little ones”.  Well the two older ones have moved out and we have the two younger ones to work on now.  We are going to make sure the kiln is nice and hot and starting baking some bricks.

Aren’t they lucky?