Sports Can Help Your Kids Learn How to Learn

143 (2) Synopsis: The lessons learned in youth sports are more than just physical. The mental challenge presented by many sports can do wonders for the minds of young people.

Depending on what sports your child chooses to play, there will likely be a variety of specific skills that they need to learn in order to excel in that sport. Beyond basic athletic movements like running and jumping, many sports that kids love to play require additional skills like throwing, catching, swinging, kicking, and more. While they might not grow up to be a professional athlete in their chosen sport, the process of learning these skills is something that will likely pay off for years to come.

The classroom setting at school is where kids will do most of their learning. Not only will they learn vital skills such as reading and math, they will also learn to grasp more complicated concepts later in life. Intelligence is not only measured by what a person knows, but also their capacity for learning new concepts. The more capable a child is to processing information, the easier school will be as they move through grades and into college.DSC_0524

However, not all learning has to take place in the classroom. The same effect can be achieved by learning a sport-specific skill from a coach on their team. For example, kids who participate in basketball have to learn a variety of skills including proper shooting form, passing technique, defensive fundamentals, and more. As they progress in the sport, coaches will provide them with instruction as to how they can improve their mechanics with something like shooting a basketball. Processing that information, and then translating it into how they shoot the ball, is a developmental process that will help them succeed.

As kids develop and progress in their respective sports, the tactical and strategic part of the game becomes more important since the basic technical skills are being improved but no longer new to them.

Kids conditioned with learning skills from sports not only use their minds to process the coaching they receive, but they also have the ability to get instant feedback and results that prove they are improving. If a child is having trouble shooting free throws, and is helped by a coach, they can quickly see the fruits of their labor when more of their free throws start going through the hoop. This is one of countless possible examples of how a child can learn how when they are participating in any number of different sports.

Too many people have the impression that sports are only good for physical exercise and for burning off the energy in young kids. In fact, there is a profound mental component to sports, and the lessons that are learned can be on par with those that are learned inside of a regular classroom. By engaging your children in the sports they are passionate about, you will be giving them an opportunity to expand their mental capacity beyond what they receive during the school day.

A Lifetime Of Fitness Can Start On The Field

543Synopsis: Maintaining physical fitness is key to a healthy adult life, and participating in sports as a child teaches great lessons that help toward this goal.

It isn’t breaking news that obesity is a problem that has swept across the United States, and parts of the rest of the world as well. Maintaining a healthy weight throughout adult life is one of the biggest factors in staying healthy, yet more and more people are having trouble doing just that. While an increase in awareness has started to chip away at the problem, there is a lot more work that needs to be done to restore our population to a healthy weight.

The good news is that it is relatively easy to set your child up on a path toward a lifetime of fitness- simply enroll them in sports when they are young. When a child is exposed to fun, rewarding, and fulfilling activities at an early age, they will be far more likely to continue with physical activity later in life. Most of the attention in regard to the obesity problem in our country is related to nutrition; however, physical exercise plays just as important a role in managing weight. Only when a person is able to combine a healthy diet with regular exercise will they be able to control their weight successfully.

Learning Skills and Understanding Exertion

One of the many benefits of participating in sports is learning how to exercise and developing habits of an active lifestyle. It can be difficult to get started on a physical fitness routine for adults who were never active as children because they never had the opportunity to learn those skills and get comfortable pushing their body through physical challenges. The same way your child would be unable to do math as an adult if they never learned it as a child, they need to learn how to exercise effectively so they can carry that knowledge with them throughout their life. Sports are the perfect way to teach kids about exercise because they will be having fun while they are learning these valuable lessons.

As your child continues to grow, they may or may not decide that they want to be involved in sports throughout high school and beyond. Regardless of how long they choose to play organized sports, the things they learn and habits they develop about caring for their bodies and getting regular exercise are important to their long-term well-being. When they become adults and take on the responsibilities of adult life – jobs, children of their own, etc. – it will become more and more difficult to stay physically fit. However, you will have done them a huge favor by instilling basic exercise skills from an early age. Hopefully, as more and more children are engaged in sports, the obesity problem faced in this country will begin to fade away.

Recreational v. Select: The Best Choice For Your Child

soccercolbySynopsis: Several factors should be considered by parents before placing youth athletes into more competitive play.

Parents of children exemplifying an early mastery in sport know it will only be a matter of time before they face the oh-so-popular buzzwords of today’s youth athletics. Words such as ‘Select,’ ‘Club,’ or ‘Premiere’ roll off the tongues of Moms and Dads in the stands. “Susie is a natural at volleyball. Why don’t you find her a Club team?” asks another parent. “Wow! Johnny sure does throw hard for his age,” a Dad starts the conversation with the father of the eight-year-old on the mound. “He’s wasting his time here. You need to get him on a Select team!”

There is never an easy answer to the question of whether recreational or select level should be the path chosen for participants in youth athletics. Parents will find this question will beget more questions, and that is okay. What age is most appropriate to play in a more competitive atmosphere? What kind of time commitment must be made? Is specializing in a single sport best for the child? More questions are sure to come before a decision is finally made.

The starting point for any parent begins with a self-evaluation of their child. Is my child actually advanced enough to compete fairly in a ‘select’ atmosphere? If the answer is yes, does my child actually want to do this? Part of a child’s athletic performance may be due to his/her being comfortable playing with school friends that are on the team. Pulling a kid out the comfort zone may not be the best choice, particularly at younger ages. What is wrong with a child excelling in a recreational sport for a few years? It may make sense to hold off on moving a child to more competitive play until the level of athleticism is matched by the child’s mental abilities. A child becoming bored with the recreational surroundings may desire to accept the challenges related to select competition.

While not always the case, many young athletes excel in more than one sport. Some select sports are more demanding than others. Baseball or softball used to be primarily summer sports, but with the growth of specialization there are now leagues in the fall and spring. Then there are individual lessons in pitching, catching and hitting which may be at an indoor facility in the winter. Select basketball, soccer, and volleyball are year-round now. The National Athletic Trainers Association has issued concerns of muscle overuse in various sports, and rightfully so. Parents should never let a child – especially before high school age – participate for more than one team per sport in any given time period. Multiple sport athletes get a chance to rest sport-specific muscle groups when one season ends and another begins.

The high cost of a college education also brings the latest reason for children to participate in the most-competitive sports atmosphere. Club and select coaches will tell parents that scholarships are more likely offered to those playing amongst greater competition. There is some truth to this, but parents must recognize club and select coaches may need to fill their rosters in order to collect enough fees to properly operate a sports program. Do the diligent research before making a monetary commitment.

There is no right answer to this question. Parents must continually ask the questions and keep their child’s overall development and best interest at the forefront. It can be helpful to find a coach that you trust who does not have a vested interest and knows your child and family.

Team Sports and Child Development

Synopsis: Socialteam-sports-and-child-dev and emotional development is an important benefit of playing on a team. Parents and coaches can instill positive social behaviors and help players work together towards a common goal.

You’ve already seen the physical gains that your child is making while playing sports, but what about other areas of development? Although athletics can certainly help boost motor abilities such as strength and coordination, playing a sport is also a great way to build social and emotional skills, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

We’ve all seen it—the “You let that goal get by and lost the game for us!” kid. The child may be the most skilled athlete on the field, but he still needs some work when it comes to controlling his emotions and social behaviors. Although kids love to be number one, it’s team spirit that can help them become true winners. Being part of a team helps children learn to communicate with each other, share, and cooperate. They also build coping skills and learn how to overcome adversity. “Working well with others” is a critical skill to success in life. The truly successful people and athletes are the ones that make everyone around them better.

Does having a less-than-stellar attitude mean that a child is ‘bad’ or beyond help? Not at all. Extra guidance and practice is important not only for the kids who need to work on their sport skills, but for those kids who are also poor sports. Whether you’re helping your own child or the kids you coach, supporting sportsmanship means building social and emotional development too.

To develop the team spirit:

  • Act as a role model. If you’re only playing the “star” athlete or are constantly criticizing the children, you’re teaching the wrong lesson. Make the game fair and fun. If you’re a parent, cheer everyone on (not just your own child). If you’re a coach, congratulate everyone on their effort. This also includes the opposing team.
  • Focus on the effort and not the effect. Ask the children to do the same. Also look for improvement in the children as a team as well as individuals.
  • Be sure to make everyone understands the importance of their respective roles on the team. Equally important is that the kids are supporting their teammates on AND off the field. When professional and elite athletes are asked what they miss most after they retire, they often refer to the bonding and relationships with their teammates. They miss the camaraderie – help the kids establish this.
  • Understand where the kids are developmentally and teach/coach accordingly. Kids develop at different rates as well as grow different physically. When parenting or coaching, be sure the development has a long-term approach. It is not simply about the game this weekend but the player that he/she will become. For example, be sure to give the kids opportunities at different positions while they are young so they can learn and build their skill set. The tallest child in 3rd grade may be average height and quicker in 7th grade – did they develop the skill set to play a variety of positions?
  • Celebrate everyone’s victories, no matter how small they are. Did the players incorporate something that was worked on in practice? While it may not have worked perfectly, it shows progress; teach the rest of the kids to praise these seemingly simple milestones.

Although physical training is a must when it comes to youth sports, social and emotional practice is just as critical. Instead of dismissing a poor sport, turn the team’s behavior around with a few life lessons in working together and being supportive.


If Your Child Is Resisting Going To Practice

Synopsis: If your child is resisting going to practice, get to the root of the issue. Instead of allowing him to quit, find out what the cause is and ask a few questions that may turn his thinking around.

“But, I don’t want to go to practice Mommy!” If your child has had a sudden change of heart when it comes to sports, helping your child to separate a temporary case of the ‘lazies’ from a desire for change takes patience and some serious discussion.

At different phases, children will have various reasons for not wanting to practice. These may range from a 5-year-old being fearful that he’ll make a mistake or “fail” to an 11-year-old who would rather stay home and play video games. While some children have legitimate reasons, others simply don’t. Before you give in and let your child skip practice or quit, have a discussion. Sometimes saying a simple, “Why don’t you want to go?” will get you nothing more than, “Because” or, “I don’t know.” Instead of stopping there, ask a few pointed questions that get to the heart of the matter. Helping your child figure out their love for the sport can boost your young athlete’s sporting spirit!

Try a conversation starter to get your child talking:

  • Is there something that worries you about playing the sport? If so, what is it?
  • Did one of the other kids on the team say something that wasn’t nice to you?
  • Are you nervous about having other people watch you while you’re on the field?
  • Are you getting a chance to play? Is the coach asking you to sit out during practice games or the actual games?

Older children, tweens, and teens may have more social reasons for wanting to skip out on practice. To better understand if this is the case, ask:

  • Are you saying that you don’t want to go because your other friends have plans to go out?
  • What do you feel like you’ll miss if you’re at practice?
  • Are your friends influencing your decision?

Discuss the answer, and let your child know that he needs to make his own decisions based on his own feelings. That said, don’t allow him to let fear or worry stand in his way. If he’s concerned that practice will be too challenging or that he won’t be as ‘good’ as the other players, explain that it’s the effort that counts. Talk about what the word “practice” means. Remind your child that practice is a time when he gets to train, learn, and build skills. If he’s concerned about missing social engagements, turn the discussion to a more work-life balance focus.

Children And Sports Stars

at the 2007 GQ 'Men Of The Year' Celebration. Chateau Marmont, Hollywood, CA. 12-05-07

Synopsis: Sports stars are all over the headlines – often for all the wrong reasons. If a child’s hero demonstrates a lack of moral character, poor sportsmanship, or engages in illegal actions, you will need to step in and help the child separate the sport from the celebrity.

Whether your child is serious about sports or just wants to have fun, professional athletes are often major role models for youth of all ages. With that in mind, what happens when a hero falls? Or, more likely, stumbles. When a child looks up to a professional athlete, that sports figure becomes more than human. He or she becomes an idol, someone to follow who should be held to the highest standards. When that perfect picture is shattered, the child may not know how to feel about the athlete, as well as sport itself.

Pro players can have an immensely positive influence on children. From posters on a wall to cheering on a favorite athlete during a game, sports figures are stars who often hold the same celebrity-level status as movie and TV stars. That said, children often have an unrealistic picture of sports stars, seeing them as flawless examples. In reality, they are people – just like the child’s parents, teachers, and friends. Despite this fact, children may still look at pro athletes as super-human. After all, they are the cream of the crop when it comes to their sport, breaking records and being glorified on highlight films and video games.

When a pro athlete gets caught using steroids, abusing alcohol, acting violently towards others, or engaging in some other negative act, the child may need help making sense of what happened. He may wonder if it was silly to look up to the athlete in the first place, if all athletes are “bad,” or even if he should quit playing the sport that the star played. “Some children may also feel powerful emotions such as anger and betrayal,” sports psychologist Marianne Engle tells the Child Study Center of the NYU Langone Medical Center.

What can adults do to help a child who is now disillusioned over the fall of a sports star? Parents, teachers and coaches can help children separate the differences between celebrity adoration and realistic admiration. For example, start by making the point that there are very few athletes that reach the top of their respective games. Being the best of the best takes an incredible amount of work, coupled with natural talent and the opportunity to succeed. Just because a professional athlete is number one on the field, it does not necessarily mean that he has the character to match. While it might seem like this would only further disillusion a child, it only shows him that pro athletes are human too.

Adults also need to remind children that for every bad-acting athlete, there are plenty of other athletes that are truly positive role models. If the child’s favorite football player is all over the news for a recent arrest, counteract this bad press by pointing out all of the other players that do good for their teams and communities.

Separate the player from the game. One bad seed shouldn’t ruin a child’s love of the sport. If the child suddenly resists going to practice or does not want to participate on the field, remind him that the fallen athlete doesn’t represent the sport as a whole. Ask the child why he enjoys the game. Encourage him to focus on the sport and not the sport’s star. This can help the child get past their disappointment and jump back into the game!

Three Reasons to Help Your Kids Love Sports

Sports are good for us. And just as it’s your job to try and get your kids to eat their five a day, you should also be trying to get them to regularly spend time playing sports and getting active. So, how can you encourage your child to love sports?

Playing sports is good for kids. Heck, it’s good for everyone. But for kids, the benefits of playing sports can play an even more important role. Not only does playing regular sports help your child to stay healthy and fit, but it also teaches her about the value of health and fitness, something that will hopefully become a lifelong lesson. Additionally, she’ll be learning valuable skills in teamwork, problem solving, and developing self esteem as well.

Since playing sports has many benefits, it makes sense that you want to encourage your children to play sports from a young age. But, as you probably know, children won’t love something just because you tell them it’s good for them. If they did, there would probably be a world shortage of spinach. It’s not a lost cause, however. There are things you can do to encourage your child to throw themselves into the world of sports. Here are three ways to help your children love sports:

1.  Be a role model
Don’t worry, you don’t need to do anything special to be a role model, you’re already one. From the first time you locked eyes with your baby, you have been one of her most important role models. By observing and copying you, she learned to talk, taught herself how to walk, and how to handle herself socially. And now, she’s learning about her likes and dislikes, and you’re a big part of that. If you want your kids to love sports, then you need to love sports. Organize big family games of baseball, shoot hoops with your kids, and make sure you’re always free for a kick at the park.

2.  Follow her lead
The best way to get your child to do anything, is to just let her do it. Cajoling and pleading with her, you probably already know, are unlikely to work. A the very best, you’ll have a grumpy, unwilling sports player on your hands. Encourage your child to play sports by ensuring she is given plenty of opportunity to play. Make sure you have balls, bats, hoops, skipping ropes, roller skates, and other sporting equipment in the house. Encourage your child to play lots of sports, but let her choose the ones she wants to continue with. Just because you regret not playing football in college, doesn’t mean she’s going to have to step in and fulfill your lost dreams. She may prefer an entirely different game, and it’s your job to support her in whatever she wants to do.

3.  Make sports fun
Playing sports should be fun. It’s meant to be a hobby that will keep your child entertained. It should be something she enjoys. It shouldn’t feel like a chore. If it does, she might be in the wrong sport, so let her try others if she wants to. Don’t be the parent who shouts at the ref, because this is likely to leave your child feeling stressed. Instead, enjoy the game whether her team wins or loses. Have fun watching, and make sure your child knows that you enjoyed watching her. Don’t force her to play sports if she doesn’t want to, don’t make her practice when she doesn’t want to; instead, let her choose what and when she plays, because this will allow her to have fun and enjoy herself.

What do you do to help your kids love sports?

What to Say When Your Kid’s Team Loses The Game

It can be hard to find the right words to say when your child looks up at you with those big, disappointed eyes after losing the game. You might not be the coach of the team but as his parent, you are coaching your child through life, and what you say matters.

There’s nothing quite like the pride you feel as you sit in the bleachers, watching one of the people you love most in the world take the winning shot. As the crowd around you cheers, and the rest of the team congratulate your child, your heart is fit to burst. But what about the days when your child’s team don’t get to take the trophy home?

Not all sports games end in glory, and you may find yourself searching for the right words to say to your disappointed child after a losing game. It might not surprise you to hear that what you say is really important. Your child looks up to you, and, even though he may not always act like it, your opinion really matters to him. And what you say after a losing game, is at least as important as what you say after a winning game, maybe even more so.

So if you need some ideas on how to help your child cope with the disappointment that comes with losing, here are some angles you could try:

1.  Great game!
Ok, they didn’t win, but that’s not all that’s important. Sports are about health, fitness, confidence building, teamwork, and a zillion other life skills that your kid is benefiting from thanks to this love of sports. He might not have won, but hopefully he still enjoyed the chance to play. As the parent, it’s your job to make sure your kid knows you love watching him play whether he wins or loses.

2.  I saw you…
Your child might not be polishing the trophy right now, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t play a good game. Think about the things you usually congratulate him on – the difficult tackles, the excellent teamwork, and the way he holds himself on the pitch – and talk about those. Sports really isn’t all about winning, and how he plays in a game is just as important as the final score.

3.  Good effort!
This is a phrase that is useful during winning games too. Instead of focusing on the final result, your praise should focus on the effort that went into the game. It doesn’t matter whether his team won or lost, what matters is that he tried his best, so make sure that is what you focus on when you congratulate him for the game. This is a useful phrase to use at other times too, because it will reinforce the belief that the outcome isn’t the most important thing, it’s the effort that really counts.

4.  You seem disappointed
This is an important point. It’s ok to feel disappointed. It’s ok to feel frustrated and angry, too. Your child can’t help how he feels. Try not to dismiss his feelings by telling him to suck it up, or that he’s not showing very good sportsmanship. Instead, talk about how he is feeling. If he tells you he’s annoyed, paraphrase it back to him. This technique helps him feel heard, and is an important tool in helping him manage his emotions.

5.  Let’s go and…
Whatever it is you usually do after a winning game – grab lunch at a pancake house, head out for ice-cream, or just veg in front of a movie – do it. Keeping your after game routine the same can help to reinforce the belief that it doesn’t matter if you win or lose. After a few hours of quality time with you, your kid will probably be feeling much better. If you only take your kid for pancakes after a winning game, it will reinforce the idea that losing is rubbish, and may even leave him questioning whether he is being punished for losing.

Six Reasons You Should Be Encouraging Your Child To Play Sports

Young football players

Sports are great for fitness, social skills, psychological development and important life skills. In fact, there are a whole host of reasons why playing sports is great for your child, and it was pretty tough to whittle the list down to just six.

Some parents worry about the risks involved in sports. While it’s true that your child is likely to suffer a few bumps and bruises, very serious injuries are a little more rare. There are numerous benefits to playing sports, especially for children who are growing, developing, and learning on so many levels. Here are six important reasons why you should be encouraging your child to play sports:

1.  It’s important for fitness
Children should do at least an hour of moderate exercise every day. This could be running around after a football, taking a dip at the local pool, or cycling home from school. It’s easy for most kids to manage an hour of physical activity when the weather is nice, but you may a harder time convincing them to leave the sofa when it’s cold outside. Team sports offer a number of incentives – including the social circle and friendships that might just be enough to lure your child out for a run in the winter months.

2.  It’s fun
Aside from all the health benefits, the main reason most people play sports is because it’s fun. Playing sports is a great way to spend your free time. Whether you love running, climbing, team sports or something else, sports are a great way to pass the time.

3.  They’ll meet friends
One of the great things about sports clubs is that there are a whole new group of kids to play with. Your child will meet new people, develop friendships and relationships, and develop his social skills. These will be friends your child sees every week, who he learns to trust on the field, as well as after practice. A lot of people make very close friends through playing sports, and many of these friendships last a lifetime.

4.  It’s good for self esteem
Self esteem plays an important role in happiness, and all parents want to ensure their children develop strong self esteem that will see them through life. Research has identified that playing sports can help children develop self esteem. Team sports aren’t the only sports that boost confidence and esteem, individual sports have actually proven to build an even higher level of self esteem.

5.  It’s important for body image
Research has found that playing sports regularly (at least once a week), can help young people develop a positive body image. Playing sports forces people to put their bodies to the test. Once you have seen how fast your strong legs can run, or how accurately your arms can throw, you are more likely to feel a sense of admiration for your body.

6.  It reduces the risk of illicit risky behaviors
A number of studies have found that young people who regularly engage in sport or physical activity are less likely to engage in risky behavior outside of the sportshall. For teenagers, this means drinking, smoking and drugs. Some experts believe this is because people who play sports are able to take risks on the field, allowing them to enjoy that adrenalin rush in a safe environment. For young people who don’t play sports, these illicit behaviors may simply be a way of taking risks.

Jones-Palm, D (2005) Physical Activity and Its Impact On Health Behavior Among Youth published by the World Health Organization

Omarsson, B (2013) Effects of sport participation on adolescent self-esteem and body-image: differences in gender and types of sport explored

My Father The Hero

My Dad is Superman. No, he’s bigger and badder than Superman. He’s a metamorphosis of all of the superheroes. I can’t remember ever needing him and not overtly receiving his helping hand. Once, I needed to design a car for the Boy Scouts Pinewood Derby. Pops was there (I won by the way….hard to compete with a scaled down model of a Ferrari). I had a difficult time as a young boy keeping my fluids inside me while sleeping. This is no lie. Guess who was there to move me to the dry side so he would be the one wading his way through the night on the wet side. Yup, Pops did that. I wanted to attend UNC, Chapel Hill. Someone special to me placed a call to my high school to let me know my dream had come true. Yup, it was Pops. I wanted to see the world after college. Having not a penny to my name I needed someone to make it happen. Pops was there. He has been there every time. He’s my hero.

My Dad flew the F-4 Phantom in Vietnam. My Dad is a fighter pilot! He completed over 120 missions!! What was asked of him, he did. He saluted when appropriate and played cards with the boys below deck when he could. He had a mustache. He always flew with a stuffed animal of Snoopy. Oh, and a cigarette. Times have changed.

I remember every detail of my Dad’s pictures from Vietnam because I used to spend hours at my grandmother’s (Nanny) house staring and analyzing his pictures. This can’t be him speeding by a Russian aircraft!? Yup, that was my Dad. I stared and stared and stared. Ultimately, the time travel would be interrupted by Nanny with her inevitable offering of flat soda and olive loaf. If he isn’t a hero for flying the Phantom, surviving his mom’s food has to meet the criteria.

I wanted to be my Dad. I wanted to do everything he did. I wanted to visit everywhere he did. My Dad had an Airedale terrier as a kid. I have an Airedale terrier. My Dad was in the Navy. I went as far as the Congressional Nomination stage of entering Annapolis. Ultimately I decided to go somewhere else, UNC, Chapel Hill. Oh, I forgot to mention. That’s my father’s alma mater.

IMG_0053 2

He’s everything I ever wanted to be. As the Foo Fighter’s song says, ‘There goes my hero…..’He’s ORDINARY!’ Yes, absolutely. My dad isn’t a Wall Street tycoon. My dad didn’t rake in millions running a prestigious law firm. Nope, none of that. My Dad owns a car repair shop in a town of less than 5,000 residents. He works 6 days a week 10 hours a day.

His customers respect his integrity almost as much as I do. Every morning Pops would have keys under floor mats and blank checks waiting for him at work. A mechanic with ‘free reign’ would be a scary thought for most. Not my Dad’s customers. I’ve seen them return later to pick up their car and watch as my Dad hands the check back because no repairs were necessary. The customer would insist reaching into his wallet for a token of appreciation, but my Dad never accepted. He was presidential. He and his ilk should be whom we read about on the front page of the paper. He’s a man that looks another man right between the eyes. He’s a man that walks the walk of honor. He’s the man I can only pretend to be, but aim to impersonate in some fashion. I hope to represent his name well. He’s earned that.

I never saw Pops in the morning, and I waited on pins and needles (unless I was in trouble of course) for the sound of the garage door when he returned. I was like a puppy waiting for his owner. Pops is home! He’d stroll in with black fingernails and a look of utter fatigue. As he would always say…’Can everyone give me a minute…I’ve been on my feet all day!” So he read Newsday and ate his chips, or peanuts, or fritos, or whatever permutation of all of the above. That apparently was like a good meal to a sled dog because he would come back rejuvenated. When I heard the bag crinkle to close, I knew it was ‘make my Dad so tired he can’t see straight’ time. And he would oblige.

We played basketball in my room. My mom would plead for us not to because of all of the holes we put in the wall from crashing into it chasing after a loose ball. We boxed. He would use the lefty glove, me the righty. We played baseball in the family room with a mini-bat and a nerf ball. On the days I really wanted to torture him we’d go outside and play basketball in the driveway, or play a couple of holes on the makeshift golf course I designed in the backyard. My Dad didn’t care much for possessions. His khakis that he wore every day are proof of that. What he cared about and cherished above all however, was his lawn. He would talk to it like a grass whisperer. And here I am, a less than mediocre golfer hacking up his ‘baby.’ It hurt, it hurt deep down in his soul. But knowing he’s a conduit to my happiness, he let me play. He looked like Eeyore; depressed about his lawn, but still out there hanging with me.

The stories are endless. I have so many because I think about them like I analyzed his pictures at my grandparents’ house. I cherish them as I do him. We’d never let on of course. We were ‘men’. He would tuck my sisters and me in every night.   He would always tell my sisters he loves them. Not me, we’d do our handshake routine and give a nod. It meant the same thing.

My Dad found out recently that he has stage 4 prostate cancer. Yes, MY dad. MY HERO HAS CANCER! He’s tough. He’s the adult. He’s the one that has to be ‘strong’. He’s the foreman of the house and must come off as robust and authoritative. But I have seen and heard tears welling up in his hawk like eyes lately. He’s scared. We all are. It has spread throughout his bones, and even reached his scapula. But guess where he was when he told me the diagnosis. He was at work! Yes, I know that Mr. Smith’s oil has to be changed because he’s going to visit his son at college. And I know the van in front needs an alignment for the business owner to put it back on the road. But Dad, you learned that your body is destroying itself not but an hour ago. So what!? That didn’t stop him. The doctor didn’t present him with Kryptonite, so he was back at work at 68 years of age and full of cancer. You know what, the Foo Fighters got it wrong. He’s NOT ordinary!

I’m much better at writing my words than speaking them. So if I only get one view of this post, I hope it’s the one it’s meant for.