What I Have Learned From:
Being a Father of a Professional Athlete
One thing about getting old that you only learn by getting old … is that the advice you have to offer from years of experience as a man, husband, father, divorced husband, step-father, and all other roles along that long journey … has no interested audience. Trust me – I am not complaining … it’s not like I have any wisdom at all … but it is a dynamic of our current lifestyle.
Being blessed with three sons and two step-daughters I have come to realize quite a bit. Chalk it up to the incredible amount of teaching and advice that is only a click away … or maybe this generation is not any different from previous generations. I adore our five children and am so incredibly proud of them, but, I was surprised to learn that they knew everything about being an adult before actually becoming an adult --- everything about being married before actually being married --- everything about being a parent before actually being a parent ---- and fortunately for Joanne and me --- they have always been incredibly unselfish in their willingness to share their wisdom with us.
With that in mind, I am going to seize on the opportunity to possibly write about something that even my children are not yet experts in: Lessons from being a parent of a professional athlete.
- Television broadcasters are amazingly bi-polar … they are either far too effusive in their praise or far too critical in their judgment. But you learn that is what they get paid to do and you appreciate the fact that you can watch your son play soccer on television instead of freezing your ass off in the stands at some rainy and muddy stadium/field/patch of weeds. I also have a ‘system’ – I listen and agree to the effusive-praise broadcasters and mumble that the critical broadcasters are clearly idiots.
- Being a sports fan --- I criticize players from time to time (for crying out loud I am a die-hard Oakland Raiders fan … criticism in now in my DNA). When I sit at a stadium and fans start ripping on my son – I have learned to just smile and be glad that he is a topic of conversation. My wife however … has not quite learned that skill … I don’t think she ever will. (Wait until he starts coaching – she will not be able to go to the games with me at that point). If you ever sat at Earthquake games and a lady in front of you shot you a look that made you quiver --- that was my wife and you were talking sh@t about Chris … sorry … that was me sitting next to her and I was cool with it.
- Watching your son play – either in person or on television is so intense that I cannot even imagine how it could be done before big screen HD. Trust me – in soccer on television – picking each player out from a wide-angle shot of the field becomes a learned skill.
- Watching your son play – either in person or on television is so intense that you end up with only a very small circle of friends who are even allowed to sit in the room and watch with you. And those friends do not include people who ask a lot of questions.
- Your son/daughter will have good games and not so good games … no athlete has ever had only good games. The age old advice is to not get too high on the good and not get too low on the bad … but my advice is == celebrate the good like freaking crazy and don’t get too low on the bad.
- I stopped offering critical advice to my son many, many years ago. I now tell him how proud I am of him after every single game no matter what happened in the game. Frequently he will tell me to shut up because they lost or he didn’t do well … but come on people – how could you not be proud of your son going out there and playing his heart and soul out???? Now … if he ever was mean to a spectator or didn’t respect the game --- he and I would have a different conversation. – (I do look the other way when his on-field intensity gets extremely strong … but his wife doesn’t look the other way so I know that gets criticized at home).
- For a couple of years I had two sons playing professionally together … watching them on the field together was the best part of my professional-fatherly life. My younger son, Stephen, once scored a tying goal in the last minute of an US Open Cup Game in Charleston … to watch Chris go over and jump on top of him was my favorite professional fatherly moment of all time … and I dare say will always be. I wish that feeling of that one moment in time for every father --- and it does not have to come from professional sports – I am so fortunate to have traveled to Charleston that week in July to be able to take that in. Well worth all of the 5am departures from home on Saturday morning to drive to Buzzards Breath, California or some other crazy place to get to an 8am tournament game … and ….freeze your ass off on the sideline of some weed patch drinking lukewarm coffee.