Lessons Learned from My Sports Fanatic Dad
Reilly Cook – Lakewood, CO
I attended my first baseball game at 2 days old and took part in countless youth sports practices and games after that. You guessed it – I’m the youngest child.
Growing up, my sports fanatic dad coached my older brothers in soccer and baseball, and when I was old enough, my parents asked me if I’d like to play. I was pretty sick of watching other people play sports from the sidelines at that point, so I said, “I guess.” Not the rousing response a sports enthusiast wants from a budding youth soccer star, but it would do.
I lived in a small town with a small soccer program. The teams were a mix of boys and girls, but mostly boys. Over time, I convinced a few girlfriends of mine to join me on the field and we played with nearly the same group for 8 or so years. You guessed it – my dad was the coach. I enjoyed soccer because I got to run around and play outside with friends. The drama over winning and losing was exhausting. Who cares? I was five! The question I was interested in was, “Will there be snacks?”
Watching my dad coach was interesting. He seemed to really love the strategy of it all – what made each kid tick and how to get them excited to play. My dad and I would debrief after games and practices, going over what went well and what needed improvement. He’d give me insight into managing the team and how some people blossomed with positive feedback and others do better with tough love. We’d talk about who was over-analyzing or who wasn’t trying their hardest, and how he was going to try to adjust for the next practice. We’d talk about which kids were physical or fast, which had endurance or grit, and why those qualities placed them in their role on the team.
As for my role, I was a good defender. Plus, I was the ringleader for the perpetually outnumbered girls on the team. As the youngest of two brothers, I was used to being surrounded by boys, so I made sure they all knew they could not impress or intimidate us. However, my dad felt like I could be selectively competitive. How could he get me to care about winning every time?
One year we recruited all the girls in our league and signed up to play in a bigger town that had enough players to support an all-girls league. This felt important to me and suddenly I got competitive. Did my dad know that would happen? Was he THAT good? That season we went undefeated.
Eventually, I’m sure I would have figured out that any successful team requires different kinds of talent and personalities. I would have eventually learned how to manage a team by understanding each individual member and their strengths, weaknesses, and goals. I would have also learned how important it is to inspire others and find a team that’s the right fit for you. But, thanks to my sports fanatic dad, I learned these lessons early through youth sports.